Grenade attack in Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp targeted Palestinian National Security Force member’s home

Published September 27th, 2016 - 12:00 GMT
The Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon. (AFP/File)
The Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon. (AFP/File)

A grenade explosion targeted the home of a member of the Palestinian National Security Forces in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in the early hours of Monday morning, Palestinian sources said Monday.

The grenade, thrown by an unknown assailant, exploded on the roof of Nasser Daoud’s house – the apparent target of the attack – between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. Monday morning, a Fatah Movement official in the camp told The Daily Star.

No one was hurt in the blast and the security source from the Fatah Movement told The Daily Star that Daoud was not home at the time of the incident. However, the source added that Daoud’s family were sleeping when the explosion went off.

The source speculated that the attack might have been spurred by public comments Daoud made recently on the endurance of Fatah Movement as a central pillar in the camp combatting all enemies, including Israel.

“We want to preserve our families. ... This camp [Ain al-Hilweh] has graduated fighters and has become a symbol for strife. We are the cadres of this camp,” the security source reported Daoud as saying in his message that may have aggravated other factions in the camp.

“It was probably religious extremists who committed this act, or a third party looking to increase tensions within the camp,” the source said, referring to the still-unknown perpetrators. “It’s part of a psychological war,” the source added.

The camp is often rocked by factional violence as members of competing groups – including members of outlawed Islamist organizations - vie for control of areas within the confines. This has led to instability and tensions, exacerbated by the presence of suspects wanted by the Lebanese authorities.

The source explained that hard-line Islamic factions have a small presence in the camps and feel marginalized by the more established groups. “They are afraid of being sieged,” the source said. “They realized that camp security leaders were serious about maintaining the camp’s security and are collaborating with the Lebanese Army to do so.”

After waves of violence over the last several months, the camp has experienced a semblance of stability after an initiative between Palestinian officials and the Army began in July. The agreement saw local figures visit known suspects in the camp and convince them to surrender to Lebanese authorities on the promise of a fair hearing, no torture and release if no evidence was found against them. This led more than 60 fugitives hiding in the camp to surrender to Army Intelligence over the past two months.

The fugitives include supporters of radical preacher Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, as well as those accused of belonging to terrorist groups. There have been some who authorities wanted to speak to regarding crimes but were not arrested and have since returned to the camp. “There are many instance of individuals who are called to surrender themselves without having committed any felonies,” the security source said.

General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim also made a recent call to look into humanitarian issues inside the camps, not only security concerns. This, the source explained, had also had a positive effect on the mood in the camp. “It was a very sensible speech. ... Palestinian and Lebanese forces must begin serious dialogue,” the source said.

Regarding the camp’s stability following Monday’s explosion, the source said he expects a return to normal. “I do not think something big will happen now. ... Those who thought they were above the law are currently under watch and have experienced a shock,” he added.

The attack comes just days after the Army detained a suspected Daesh (ISIS) emir in the Tawari neighborhood, the very heart of the Islamists’ stronghold of the camp, last Thursday. The arrest averted more attacks and violence across the country, Lebanese Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi said in a statement Friday. Sources following the situation in the camp explained that the Army’s operation had set a new precedent for how major security cases in the camp would be handled.

By Nadine Ghaith

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