SIDON, Lebanon: Residents of Lebanon’s biggest Palestinian refugee camp expressed a sigh of relief Sunday after it was announced that notorious Islamist Bilal al-Arqoub had been killed during a gunfight. Arqoub was killed in the early hours of Sunday during clashes with rival Islamist factions - with his supporters on the one side and members of Osbat al-Ansar and Palestinian Islamic Jihad on the other - in Ain al-Hilweh.
The clashes took places in the camp’s Manshieh area, Palestinian sources told The Daily Star.
Two of Arqoub’s sons, Youssef and Osama, were arrested and handed over to Lebanese Army Intelligence, while a third, Mohammad, escaped.
In recent years, Arqoub became a source of tension in Ain al-Hilweh and was behind several incidents in the camp. In his early years, he was a member of the Fatah Movement before joining Islamic factions and eventually forming his own group.
Perhaps one of the most serious hostilities in the camp that saw Arqoub’s participation was during the August 2017 fighting that broke out between extremist Bilal Badr’s Islamist group and the joint Palestinian security force that included members of Fatah.
Shortly after the news of Arqoub’s death was made public at dawn Sunday, the sound of celebratory gunfire rang out across the camp as minarets announced his death. Videos posted to social media showed crowds of men cheering and jumping with joy at the news.
The situation in the camp was calm as of Sunday night and Arqoub’s body was handed over to Lebanese authorities.
Arqoub had gone off the radar Saturday after members of Osbat al-Ansar and the Fatah Movement raided his house in the camp’s Ras al-Ahmar area.
Palestinian sources had told The Daily Star at the time that Arqoub had changed locations and was believed to have fled to the Manshieh neighborhood. He had been accused of the Friday murder of the brother of a member of Osbat al-Ansar, Hussein Alaaeddine.
Alaaeddine was shot during a demonstration for Palestinian rights in Ain al-Hilweh. He was seriously wounded and later died in a Sidon hospital.
He was laid to rest Sunday afternoon in Darb al-Sim in a large funeral that saw the participation of different Palestinian factions.
Arqoub’s body will be laid to rest Monday after Palestinian factions in south Lebanon’s refugee camps agreed for the burial to take place in the new Sidon Cemetery, after refusing burial in their camps.
Arqoub’s body is still at Sidon’s Al-Hamshari Hospital.
Alaaeddine’s family claimed that a member of the Arqoub family had killed Alaaeddine out of revenge for a previous altercation.
In March, Alaaeddine’s brother Khaled allegedly shot and critically wounded Arqoub’s son, Youssef, in the camp’s Safsaf neighborhood, which is dominated largely by the camp’s Islamist factions.
“I don’t support killing,” Alaaeddine father said at the funeral. But, he added: “God gave Bilal al-Arqoub the punishment that he deserves and God restored back my son’s right.”