PLO leader calls for Palestinian force in Lebanese camps

Abbas Zaki says separate security force would prevent formation of armed gangs.

laf on apc 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
laf on apc 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinians in Lebanon should be permitted to set up their own security force in refugee camps there to prevent the formation of armed gangs in the future, the top PLO official in Lebanon said Thursday. The official, Abbas Zaki, spoke after briefing Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on the fighting in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared near the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. In the camp, an al-Qaida-inspired group, Fatah Islam, has been fighting the Lebanese army since May 20. The fighting has killed more than 100 people in the worst internal violence in Lebanon since the end of the 1975-90 civil war. Some 27,000 of the 35,000 camp residents have fled, Zaki said. The Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and Gaza has tried to distance itself from Fatah Islam and sided with the Lebanese authorities. In a speech earlier this week, Abbas said the militants "have nothing to do with the Palestinian struggle" and endanger the lives of innocent Palestinians. More than 400,000 Palestinians live in refugee camps in Lebanon, often in harsh conditions. Zaki told a news conference Thursday that the fighting in Nahr el-Bared is in its final stages. He said the Fatah Islam members are asking to be allowed to stay in the camp or to be given asylum in another country. "But we say that they should go to court because no one will accept them, and we will not accept them in our refugee camps (in Lebanon)," he said. "They are not a political organization. They are just gangs." Zaki said the Palestine Liberation Organization is proposing setting up a Palestinian security force of 4,000 to 5,000 members in the refugee camps in Lebanon, to prevent the formation of extremist groups in the future. Palestinian gummen, many allied with the moderate Fatah movement headed by Abbas, are largely running the camps, and until recently the Lebanese authorities mostly stayed out of the Palestinian enclaves. The camps are also crammed with illegal weapons. Zaki said Abbas offered financial aid to the refugees who have fled Nahr el-Bared, promising $200 to each family and $1,000 to families that had a member killed in the fighting. He said Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora assured him the camp would be rebuilt as soon as the fighting ends.