The head of the Hamas Political Bureau is making strong efforts to keep Palestinian refugees out of armed clashes between rival groups in Lebanon. Khaled Meshaal has contacted the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berri, to ask for his support in this issue. The Lebanese Army has been clashing with supporters of Salafi Shaikh Ahmed Al-Asir in Sidon over the past few days.
In a media statement, Hamas said that its representative in Lebanon, Ali Baraka, has contacted the Amal movement, Hezbollah, the Islamic Group, the Lebanese Army and other Islamic parties in Ein Al-Hilwa refugee camp regarding the clashes. He pointed out that Palestinian refugees want to maintain good relations with their Lebanese neighbours and have nothing to do with the latest unrest. The Hamas leader warned of incitement against Palestinian refugees in local propaganda.
During clashes on Monday morning, however, one Palestinian was killed in Ein Al-Hilwa camp just outside of Sidon. He was named as Abed Jomaa.
Sidon witnessed severe clashes on Sunday between the follower of Shaikh Al-Asir and the Lebanese Army. Twelve people were reported to have been killed, including ten Lebanese soldiers; around 40 people were wounded.
"An armed group loyal to Shaikh Ahmed al-Asir attacked, for no reason, a Lebanese Army checkpoint in the village of Abra on the outskirts of the southern port city of Sidon," said an army spokesman. "A number of soldiers were killed, not by the enemy, but by a local Lebanese group."
The army spokesman pointed out that it has been trying to keep Lebanon and the Lebanese people out of the conflict across the border in Syria. "We have never acted upon calls for the army to crack down on Al-Asir's group in order to avoid any chaos." He vowed, though, that the army "will not tolerate" such clashes and will continue to fulfil its role of keeping people safe and suppressing armed conflict in the country.
The spokesman urged political leaders in Sidon to choose sides and either stand alongside the army or with those "who promote strife and the killing of soldiers". Lebanese President Michel Suleiman has convened an urgent cabinet meeting in response to the latest unrest to hit his country.