Some residents have fled Ain al-Hilweh due to clashes in the area during the past couple of days [Reuters]

Three killed during clashes in Palestinian refugee camp south Lebanon

Al Jazeera and AFP /

At least three people have been killed in clashes between rival armed groups in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp, Ain Al-Hilweh, near the southern port city of Sidon.

The clashes sparked between the Jund al-Sham group and members of the Fatah movement (Palestinian Liberation Organization PLO) on Monday in the northern part of Ain al-Hilweh camp and quickly spread, making dozens of families flee the camp in fear for their lives.

Sources told Al Jazeera that three killed were on Fatah’s side. Several others were wounded and rushed to hospitals in Sidon.

Al Jazeera said that it was unclear what sparked the clashes, and each side blamed the other.

The escalating rivalry between Jund al-Sham and Fatah has erupted into clashes several times over the past few months, Al Jazeera reported.

On Saturday, two Fatah members were killed when members of Jund al-Sham tried to kill a leading Fatah official.

Notorious camp

The impoverished Ain al-Hilweh camp, home to more than 100,000 refugees, has gained notoriety as a refuge for fugitives and for the settling of scores between factions.

The Lebanese army does not enter the camp, under a tacit deal agreed after the 1975-1990 civil war. Palestinian factions are responsible for security.

The sound of fierce gunfire and rocket fire could be heard from neighbouring Sidon as clashes raged on Monday. The Lebanese army reinforced its positions at the four main entrances to Ain al-Hilweh.

“Ambulances have not been able to enter the camp because of the intensity of the fighting, and because they’re happening near the camp’s entrances,” one Palestinian source inside the camp told the AFP news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity.

An AFP correspondent said dozens of families fleeing the violence were heading into Sidon.

More than 450,000 Palestinians are registered in Lebanon with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees.

Most live in squalid conditions in the country’s 12 official refugee camps.