The Lebanese Army has placed electronic gates at all of the entrances to a Palestinian refugee camp in south Lebanon, to screen everyone entering or leaving the camp.
The installation of the gates around the perimeter of Sidon’s Ain al-Hilweh drew a strong rebuke from Palestinian factions and camp residents, with activists taking to social media to call for protests at the camp’s entrances.
Ain al-Hilweh has four main gates in addition to multiple smaller entry points.
Ayman Shana, the political leader of Hamas in Sidon and the area’s camps, spoke of his surprise at the Army’s move.
“It is common knowledge that these [electronic] gates are located at airports and on borders, and this camp is part of Lebanese territory,” Shana said.
“We condemn the existence of these gates because they undermine the dignity of our people, who line up in front of the gates, and [they] also obstruct traffic in and out,” he said.
Shana added that the gates are not a security solution, but do affect “the relationship of our people with the Lebanese Army.”
Another member of Hamas said he and a delegation had met with the south Lebanon head of Army Intelligence and “received a promise from Brig. Gen. Fawzi Hamadeh that he will follow up on the issue.”
Separately, Fouad Othman, the camp’s Democratic Front head, vocalized a similar response to that of Shana.
"These gates are an insult to our people and the Ain al-Hilweh camp, which was never an incubator of terrorism. Therefore, we need to strengthen the brotherly relationship between the camp and its neighbors,” Othman said.
He called on President Michel Aoun to work to ensure Palestinian nationals are granted civil and humanitarian rights, as well as the right to land ownership, and to foster a Palestinian-Lebanese dialogue to “strengthen the steadfastness of our people to uphold the right of return [to Palestine].”
Othman reiterated the Palestinian refugees’ commitment to adhering to Lebanese law and respecting the country’s sovereignty.
The electronic gates are the latest in a series of measures to ramp up security at Ain al-Hilweh. In November 2016, the Army began erecting concrete barriers around the camp to separate it from surrounding areas due to heightened security concerns. Fugitives and extremists were reportedly sneaking in and out of the camp under the cover of trees and bushes.
The project was initially met with resistance from a number of Islamist groups in the camp. Several hundred Palestinian refugees took to the streets then to decry what they called “the racist separation wall,” saying it was an oppressive development in an already unstable and deprived area. The Army, however, insisted that the wall would not negatively impact the camp, as it would retain its six legitimate entry points.
Despite complaints and condemnation by Palestinian factions at the time, the wall was completed.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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