Death toll rises to 5 in clashes at Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon

Death toll rises to 5 in clashes at Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon
Clashes at the Ein al-Hilweh camp in Lebanon between Fatah fighters and Islamist militants have left at least five people dead, including a senior Fatah official
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Fighting broke out between Fatah fighters and Islamist militants at the Ain al-Hilweh camp [Getty]

The death toll from clashes in Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp near the southern port city of Sidon rose to five on Sunday, with at least seven others wounded, Palestinian officials said.

The officials, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said the fighting broke out at the Ain al-Hilweh camp after an unknown gunman tried to assassinate Islamist militant Mahmoud Khalil, killing a companion of his instead.

Later, Islamist militants assassinated a Palestinian military general from the Fatah group and three escorts, another Palestinian official told the AP.

Factions used assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers in the overcrowded camp as ambulances zoomed through its narrow streets to take the wounded to the hospital. Several residents fled the crossfire.

Palestinian factions in the camp for years have cracked down on militant Islamist groups and fugitives seeking shelter in the camp's densely populated neighborhoods. In 2017, Palestinian factions engaged in almost a week of fierce clashes with a militant organization affiliated with the extremist Islamic State group.

Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said two children were among those wounded.

The clashes stopped for several hours in the morning, though state media said there was still sporadic sniper fire. But they began again after the killing of the Palestinian general and his escorts.

The Lebanese Army in a statement said a mortar shell landed in a military barracks outside the camp wounding one soldier, whose condition is stable.

Violence in the Ain el-Hilweh camp is not uncommon. The UN says it is home to some 55,000 people.

It was established in 1948 to host Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their homes by Israeli forces during the Nakba.