SIDON, Lebanon: South Lebanon’s Mieh Mieh Palestinian refugee camp could be “weapons free” - or at least appear weapons-free - by midyear, Palestinian sources inside the camp told The Daily Star.
Officials from Lebanese Army Intelligence have been meeting over the past few weeks with Palestinian military leaders in an attempt to make the camp a weapons-free zone.
As complete disarmament would prove difficult, other proposed ideas would “ban the display of weapons in the camp as part of a broader plan to maintain security and stability and prevent provocation,” said Ayman Shanaa, Hamas’ official representative in Sidon.
Shanaa noted there was considerable difference between preventing the display of weapons and actually removing them. “The former may contribute to fixing the security situation, while the latter means changing the Lebanese mindset in dealing with Palestinian refugee camps.”
Shanaa told The Daily Star that meetings had been held in Sidon to discuss the general points of the disarmament plan, and that another meeting would be held soon to specify the details.
The Army’s decision to meet with leaders from the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces - including the Hamas Movement, the Fatah Movement, Ansar Allah and the Palestinian National Security Forces - comes as part of a military plan to reduce tensions in the camp, according to Palestinian sources.
In mid-October, clashes broke out between Fatah and Ansar Allah in Mieh Mieh, killing at least five people and injuring 30 more, and causing material damage to the camp and the surrounding town.
Shanaa expressed belief that an agreement with Hamas, Fatah and Ansar Allah would not on its own be enough to ensure peace.
“That’s why we were, and still are, calling for a shared Palestinian task force in Lebanon that would be the baseline for any decision concerning the fate of camps,” he said.
The Lebanese government has in the past resisted the permanent establishment of such a body, preferring to deal directly with the most powerful Palestinian factions.
Whether or not a task force is established, many people believe that the Army’s decision to meet with Palestinian military leaders is preferable to ramping up security. Writing by Jacob Boswall