SIDON, Lebanon: One year after violent clashes rocked the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon, construction of a controversial separation wall is moving forward in a district previously occupied by Al-Qaeda-linked militants, informed sources said Friday. As has been the case in many areas where the wall has been completed, the concrete barrier is set to pass through agricultural lands encircling the camp that have largely been off-limits to their original owners due to frequent outbursts of fighting and the tense security situation.
With plans for the wall – now in its second year of construction – moving forward, this eastern part of Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp is set to get new borders.
The future wall is slated to abut Ain al-Hilweh’s Al-Tiri neighborhood, the site of August 2017 violent armed clashes between the camp’s joint Palestinian security forces and militants loyal to extremist leader Bilal Badr.
The sources said the plans would wall off the camp from the adjacent agricultural area.
The designated land had formerly been used by the militants loyal to Badr as a training ground and also constituted a point of entry and escape to and from the refugee camp by suspects wanted by various Lebanese security agencies for a variety of crimes.
The area, known as the Pilot’s Grove, had been off-limits even to security forces, who had built fortifications for their troops there but had refrained from constructing the wall over concerns for those who would have to build it.
With the departure of Badr’s forces last summer after their decisive but destructive defeat, which left the Al-Tiri neighborhood in tatters, and subsequent planning by security forces, the conditions for the wall’s construction have now been put in place.
The sources said landowners would be the primary beneficiaries, pointing to the return of agricultural production in lands that have already been sectioned off by construction of the wall in the north and west of the camp.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 01, 2018, on page 2.