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3 killed in fresh fighting at Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon

Clashes resumed early Saturday at the largest refugee camp in Lebanon between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah group and Islamist groups, killing three people and wounding 10 others.

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, discussed with Abbas the volatile situation in an attempt to end the fighting.

Mikati called for an end to the fighting saying that what is happening in Ein el-Hilweh “does not serve the Palestinian cause and is harmful to the Lebanese state.”

Sounds of gunfire and explosions could be heard in the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp and nearby areas on the edge of the southern port city of Sidon.

The fighting resumed Friday, after a month of creative calm, forcing hundreds of people to flee for safety in nearby areas.

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Fatah had accused the Islamist groups of gunning down one of their top military officials on July 30.

A fighter of the Palestinian Fatah group crosses a street during clashes with Islamist militants in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh near the southern port city of Sidon, September 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

At least 20 people were wounded Friday.

The Lebanese army said in a statement that it is taking measures, including contacting several sides, to work on ending the clashes. It also called on people to avoid getting close to areas of fighting.

A Lebanese security official said the three people killed on Saturday included two Palestinians inside the camp and a Lebanese man who was hit with a stray bullet while driving outside Ein el-Hilweh. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said 10 others were wounded.

Senior Fatah official, Maj. Gen. Munir Makdah, refused to discuss the situation inside the camp when contacted by The Associated Press but said Fatah officials in Lebanon and in the Palestinian territories are for a cease-fire and blamed the other groups for not respecting it.

“There is ongoing chaos. There is no battle but chaos and shooting from a long distance,” Makdah said from inside the camp.

Ein el-Hilweh is notorious for its lawlessness and violence is not uncommon in the camp. The United Nations says about 55,000 people live in the camp, which was established in 1948 to house Palestinians who were displaced when Israel was established.

Palestinian residents carry their belongings as they flee their home after clashes that erupted between members of the Palestinian Fatah group and Islamist militants in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh near the southern port city of Sidon, September 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

Earlier this summer, there were several days of street battles in the Ein el-Hilweh camp between Fatah and members of the Jund al-Sham group that left 13 people dead and dozens wounded.

An uneasy truce had been in place since August 3, but clashes were widely expected to resume as the Islamist groups have not handed those accused of killing the Fatah general to the Lebanese judiciary, as demanded by a committee of Palestinian factions last month.

Lebanon is home to tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Many live in the 12 refugee camps that are scattered around the small Mediterranean country.