Fatah Gives Deadline for Handover of General’s Killers amid Fragile Truce in Lebanon Refugee Camp

Azzam Al-Ahmad, a member of Fatah's central committee and of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the Palestinian embassy, in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. (AP)
Azzam Al-Ahmad, a member of Fatah's central committee and of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the Palestinian embassy, in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. (AP)
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Fatah Gives Deadline for Handover of General’s Killers amid Fragile Truce in Lebanon Refugee Camp

Azzam Al-Ahmad, a member of Fatah's central committee and of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the Palestinian embassy, in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. (AP)
Azzam Al-Ahmad, a member of Fatah's central committee and of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the Palestinian embassy, in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. (AP)

A top official with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah group said Sunday that Palestinian and Lebanese officials have given militant Islamist groups in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp until the end of the month to hand over the accused killers of a Fatah general.

A fragile calm has largely prevailed in the Ain el-Hilweh camp since Thursday night after the warring sides reached the latest in a series of cease-fire agreements. It followed a week of intense fighting that killed at least 18 people and wounded and displaced hundreds.

Top officials from rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas had traveled to Lebanon in an attempt to negotiate an end to the clashes.

Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of Fatah’s central committee and of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday that he is “optimistic about reaching a solution” but that if the accused are not handed over by the end of the month, “all possibilities are open.”

Al-Ahmad said Fatah is not opposed to the Lebanese army entering the camp to conduct an operation against the Islamist groups should they not turn over the men accused of killing Fatah military general Mohammad “Abu Ashraf” al-Armoushi.

By tradition, Lebanese soldiers do not enter the Palestinian camps, which are controlled by a network of Palestinian factions. The last time the Lebanese army intervened in one of the camps was in 2007, when it battled extremists in the Nahr al-Bared camp in north Lebanon, razing most of it in the process.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, has officially stood on the sidelines in the clashes between Fatah and a number of extreme Islamist groups in the camp, but al-Ahmad accused Hamas members of taking up arms against Fatah “in some areas of fighting,” an accusation that Hamas has denied.

Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk, who last week met Lebanese officials and representatives from the Palestinian factions to try and reach a settlement to end the clashes, said in a message via the WhatsApp messaging application that “we were not involved in the shooting at all” and that “there have been continuous efforts” by Hamas to broker a “ceasefire agreement in any form.”

“It is clear that clashes do not make anyone hand over anyone,” he said. “... No one is willing to give himself up in the shadow of war.”

Hamas spokesman in Lebanon Walid Kilani denied that a specific deadline had been set for handing over the killers.

“What was agreed upon there will be the formation of a joint security force that includes all Palestinian factions” to implement the handover of people “wanted by both sides,” he said.

Both Fatah and Hamas have accused external forces of stoking the violence in the camp, which is home to more than 50,000 people, in an attempt to weaken the Palestinian cause. Marzouk described it as part of a “conspiracy against the Palestinian diaspora,” while al-Ahmad said the killing of Armoushi was “not only an assassination case, but a case of attempted removal of the Ain el-Hilweh camp.”

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees said Friday that 18 people had been killed and 140 injured in the latest round of clashes, which broke out on Sept. 7.

Nearly 1,000 people displaced by the fighting were staying in emergency shelters set up by UNRWA while hundreds more were sheltering in at other sites, including a nearby mosque and in the courtyard of the municipality building of the city of Sidon, which is adjacent to the camp, or with relatives.

Earlier this summer, there were several days of street battles in the Ain el-Hilweh camp between Fatah and Islamist groups after Fatah accused the Islamists of gunning down Armoushi and four of his companions on July 30.

The assassination was apparently an act of retaliation after an unknown gunman shot at Islamist militant Mahmoud Khalil, killing a companion of his instead.

Those street battles left at least 13 dead and dozens wounded, and forced hundreds to flee from their homes.



UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
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UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)

Palestinians in the Israeli occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are suffering a drastically worsening human rights environment, alongside "unconscionable death and suffering" in the Gaza Strip, the UN human rights chief said on Tuesday.

"The situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is dramatically deteriorating," Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the opening session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The West Bank, where the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule under Israeli occupation, has seen the worst unrest for decades, in parallel with the war in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas.

Turk said that from the start of the Gaza war in October through mid-June, 528 Palestinians, 133 of them children, had been killed by Israeli security forces or settlers in the West Bank, in some cases raising "serious concerns of unlawful killings".

Twenty-three Israelis have been killed in the West Bank and Israel in clashes with or attacks by Palestinians, he said.

In Gaza, Turk said he was "appalled by the disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law" by parties to the war.

"Israel's relentless strikes in Gaza are causing immense suffering and widespread destruction, and the arbitrary denial and obstruction of humanitarian aid have continued," Turk said.

"Israel continues to detain arbitrarily thousands of Palestinians. This must not continue."

He added that Palestinian armed groups were continuing to hold hostages, including in populated areas, which put both the hostages and civilians at risk.

Israel's permanent mission to the UN in Geneva accused Turk of "completely omitting the cruelty and barbarity of terrorism" in his address to the UN Human Rights Council.

"Hostilities in Gaza are the direct result of Hamas terrorism, decades of rocket-fire and incitement against the Jewish people and the State of Israel, culminating in its brutal attacks against Israel on October 7," the diplomatic mission said in a statement.

Israel's ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas-led fighters stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's offensive has killed more than 37,400 people in Gaza, according to its health authorities, and left much of the enclave's population homeless.