TRIPOLI, Lebanon: At least two Palestinians were killed Monday in clashes between the Lebanese Army and residents in the refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared in north Lebanon, security sources said.
The incident quickly set off clashes in the south’s Ain al-Hilweh camp where a Palestinian man was killed after falling on a sharp object. Four others and a Lebanese soldier were wounded in the clashes.
Monday’s deadly clashes came after last week’s fatal shooting of 15-year-old Ahmad Qassem by soldiers near Nahr al-Bared following a violent standoff between the Lebanese Army and locals.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas telephoned President Michel Sleiman urging him to deal with the situation in Nahr al-Bared and offering to help in efforts aimed at restoring calm, the state-run National News Agency reported.
The two Palestinians in Nahr al-Bared were killed by the Army after infiltrators attacked military posts, security sources said, adding that three soldiers and 10 Palestinians were also wounded. The sources identified the two victims as Amin Ghoneim and Fouad Muhieddine Loubaneh.
They said the infiltrators, who were among a crowd attending Qassem’s funeral in the camp, attacked Army posts in the camp, including one called the Samed post.
The Lebanese Army also blamed what it called “infiltrators” for the clash.
In a statement, the Army said infiltrators in the camp began hurling stones and Molotov cocktails at the Samed post which caused injury to three soldiers, burned a military vehicle and damaged part of the post.
Some infiltrators attempted to storm the post by force, prompting soldiers to confront them by using anti-riot weapons, tear gas and rubber bullets, the statement said.
However, after the infiltrators persisted in their attempts to gain access to the post, soldiers resorted to live rounds which resulted in a number of casualties among the assailants, it added.
The Army’s statement said the clash had come as attempts were made between the Army and Palestinian sides to deal with the consequences and causes of last week’s incident that led to Qassem’s killing. It added that attempts had also been under way at Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi’s instructions to loosen military measures in the camp.
Palestinians sources told The Daily Star that the infiltrators intended to drive a wedge between the Lebanese Army and the residents of the camp which was devastated by three months of fierce fighting between the Lebanese Army and Al-Qaeda-linked Fatah al-Islam gunmen in 2007.
“We will not allow this to happen as we fully support the Army,” one source said.
News of the killing of the two Palestinians caused tension in other refugee camps across the country. – The Daily Star with additional reporting by Mohammed Zaatari