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Lebanon installs e-gates at Palestinian refugee camp

Fatah movement members clash with some Palestinian Islamic groups at Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon's southern port city of Sidon on February 28, 2017. ( Mahmoud Al Zain - Anadolu Agency )
Fatah movement members clash with some Palestinian Islamic groups at Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon's southern port city of Sidon on February 28, 2017. ( Mahmoud Al Zain - Anadolu Agency )

The Lebanese army has installed electronic gates at the entrances to the Palestinian Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon, residents say according to a report by The New Arab.

The gates, which are placed at four main entrances and smaller exit points, are the latest measure to ramp up security at the Palestinian refugee camp.

In 2016, the Lebanese army began construction of a wall with watchtowers to segregate the camp from surrounding areas due to security concerns.

Reports indicated earlier this year that construction of the security wall were nearly complete.

The installation of e-gates in the Sidon refugee camp provoked outrage among Palestinian factions and residents.

“We condemn the existence of these gates because they undermine the dignity of our people, who line up in front of the gates, and [they] also obstruct traffic in and out,” Ayman Shana, the political leader of Hamas in Sidon, told The Daily Star, adding

It is common knowledge that these [electronic] gates are located at airports and on borders, and this camp is part of Lebanese territory.

The new gates will cause further friction between Palestinian residents and the army, he added.

Fouad Othman, Ain al-Hilweh’s Democratic Front leader, called the new security measures an “insult” to Palestinians.

He called on Lebanese President Michel Aoun to ensure Palestinian nationals are granted civil and humanitarian rights, as well as the right to own land, urging dialogue to “strengthen the steadfastness of our people to uphold the right of return [to Palestine].”

Hundreds of Palestinian refugees took to the streets to decry what they labelled the “racist separation wall”.

The army said the wall and new e-gates would not negatively affect the camp.

Ain al-Hilweh has been plagued by intermittent clashes between the multiple armed factions as well as against smaller extremist groups.

Lebanon’s Palestinian camps, which date back to the 1948 war between Israel and its Arab neighbours, mainly fall outside the jurisdiction of Lebanese security services.  Ain al-Hilweh is home to some 61,000 Palestinians, including 6,000 who have fled the war in Syria.

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