Intense clashes persisted Tuesday in the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon between Islamists and members of the Palestinian Fatah movement, killing three people and forcing hundreds to flee, Palestinian security officials said.
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The fighting, which began Saturday in the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp near the southern port city of Sidon, followed a failed assassination attempt targeting a Fatah party official. Fatah is the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Three people were already killed in the clashes on Saturday.
Ashraf Dabbour, Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon, told Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV Tuesday that a cease-fire agreement was concluded late Monday. But clashes erupted again Tuesday. Dabbour said Islamist militants are seeking to seize control of the camp. "What is going on in the camp is part of what is happening in the region," Dabbour said, in reference to the rising powers of Islamic militant groups in neighboring Syria and the region.
Lebanon's news agency said the fighting overnight caused hundreds of residents to flee the Ein el-Hilweh camp, toward the city of Sidon. With nowhere to go, many laid mats or mattresses on sidewalks of the city, witnesses said.
The clashes involved rockets and heavy machine gunfire, causing serious damages to homes, and injuring at least 20, the security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.
Some of the heavy weaponry had been used for the first time in the camp, local media reported.
The camp houses some 70,000 Palestinians. Militants and fugitives also have found refuge in the camp and violence often erupts there.
The fighting pitted the Fatah movement against several extremist Islamist groups including Jund al-Sham and Fatah al-Islam.
The Ein el-Hilweh camp violence comes as the Lebanese capital is gripped by political drama, following anti-government protests. Anger about the heaps of trash accumulating in Beirut's streets boiled over this week with thousands protesting the government's failure to deliver basic services. The clashes turned violent over the weekend, prompting the government to erect a wall outside its main building to prevent protesters from reaching it.