SIDON, Lebanon - Quiet returned to Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp on Saturday after a ceasefire between Islamic militants and fighters of the mainstream Fatah faction ended heavy clashes.
The hundreds of civilians who had fled the fighting in the densely populated Ain al-Helweh camp outside the southern port city of Sidon began returning to their homes after the truce took hold, an AFP correspondent witnessed.
Fatah fighters exchanged rocket fire with militants of Jund Al-Sham (Soldiers of Damascus) for some four hours in the camp’s main street late on Friday prompting the exodus of civilians.
Gunshots were subsequently heard in Sidon itself, with a Fatah leader saying at least four people had been wounded in the fighting.
“There is a ceasefire ... the regrettable clashes that took place have ended” following mediation by another Islamist group, Usbat Al-Ansar (Band of Supporters), Fatah official Munir Al-Maqdah told AFP.
He said the Jund Al-Sham fighters had agreed to leave the camp and Fatah security agents would take control.
“There won’t be a second Nahr Al-Bared at Ain Al-Helweh,” said Makdah, referring to the three months of fierce fighting between the Lebanese army and Fatah Al-Islam militants that destroyed that Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon.
Maqdah could not specify whether the wounded were civilians or fighters, and had no information on anyone being killed in the clashes.
A Lebanese army spokesman had said the fighting had been confined to the camp and that troops, who by longstanding convention do not enter Lebanon’s dozen refugee camps, had not got involved.
The army blocked entry to the camp, which is home to some 45,000 people, but allowed civilians to leave.
An AFP correspondent said more than 100 Palestinian families took refuge in Sidon, some finding shelter in mosques while others spent the night in their vehicles.