Quarterly Updates for (16 Nov 2016 — 15 Feb 2017)

Following mos. of interfactional tension and violence in ‘Ayn al-Hilweh r.c. (see JPS 45 [2]), the Lebanese army began constructing a new wall around the camp on 11/20. A military spokesman said (11/22) this was a “security measure” to stop “the infiltration of terrorists” into the camp, and a Fatah security official confirmed (11/22) that the various Palestinian factions had met with the Lebanese military and decided that this was “the best decision” for the camp’s protection. ‘Ayn al-Hilweh, with its 60,000 residents, is already encircled by metal fences and Lebanese army checkpoints.

Construction of the wall quickly met with opposition, including from some Palestinian factions that had reportedly approved the plan. Hamas issued a statement (11/22) saying that it was an “unacceptable step that threatens the future of Palestinian refugees and compounds their suffering.” Other critics in the camp compared it to Israel’s separation wall. After the Lebanese army “paused” construction, according to a spokesperson (11/23), the work came to a complete halt following another meeting between army officials and reps. of the Palestinian factions on 11/24. The Palestinians reportedly agreed to put in place procedures to improve the “security situation” throughout Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps, according to a statement released after the meeting. It was unclear what procedures would be implemented in place of the wall.

Shortly after the wall issue was resolved, another outbreak of violence shook the camp. Lebanese media reported that a Palestinian named Samer Hamid was “assassinated” on 12/21. Residents of the camp then exchanged fire, leading to the death of 2 more Palestinians and resulting in 4 injuries. At least 1 more Palestinian was injured as tensions remained high over the next 24 hours, leading the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to suspend services “until further notice” on 12/22. UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness wrote (12/22) that “violent incidents . . . continue to shock and frighten camp residents, they prevent children going to school and patients going to clinics; and they threaten the safety and security of civilians and their ability to access a range of services.” The Daily Star reported “cautious calm” in the camp on 12/24, but sporadic bouts of violence continued throughout the rest of the quarter, including 1 on 1/15 resulting in the injury of an UNRWA staffer.

Also of note: Lebanese emigré businessman Amine Bakri was killed by 3 unidentified gunmen outside his furniture factory in Angola on 1/2. Lebanese pres. Michel Aoun said (1/4) that Israeli Mossad agents may have been responsible, but no evidence backing his claim came to light.