Recent clashes in Ain al-Hilweh, Lebanon’s most populous Palestinian refugee camp, saw residents fleeing for safety as explosions and gunfire reverberated throughout the surrounding city of Sidon.
The fighting pitted Fatah and other Palestinian groups against militants affiliated with extremist Bilal Badr. At least 10 people were killed and dozens wounded, while several buildings were left in ruins.
Lebanese political leaders were quick to condemn the violence. Lebanon’s seemingly perennial parliament speaker Nabih Berri warned that the only beneficiary of the clashes was the state of Israel. (One wonders, then, who benefited when a militia headed by Berri himself laid siege to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon for several years in the 1980s.)
Yet it is a crisis partly of the Lebanese leadership’s own making. Such bloody showdowns between rival factions wouldn’t be happening if places like Ain al-Hilweh didn’t exist in the first place.
Palestinian refugees fled to Lebanon amid the widespread violence and plunder that attended the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Now numbering more than half a million in Lebanon, Palestinian refugees are denied citizenship and basic rights, banned from a fluctuating number of professions, prohibited from owning property and often dehumanized in Lebanese society. Many reside in squalid and overcrowded camps – Ain al-Hilweh being the largest.
There is little room for Palestinians to assert their rights or dignity within Lebanon’s sectarian political system, which apportions power among 18 recognized sects based on a census conducted in 1932, after which there has been no subsequent population tally. The number of Lebanese presently in Lebanon is estimated to be around 4 million. READ MORE AT NewsDeeply.