Three Hamas men were killed yesterday Sunday by gunfire during the funeral of an Islamist movement member in a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon, a Palestinian faction official told the French news agency, blaming the action on rival Fatah.
Relations between Hamas and Fatah, the movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, based in Ramallah, in the West Bank, have been extremely tense since 2007, when the Islamists seized control of the Gaza Strip after bloody clashes.
“Members of Fatah fired at the convoy” of a Palestinian refugee killed by an explosion on Friday in the same refugee camp, Burj al-Semali, said Rafat al-Mura, the Hamas official, also citing six wounded.
Talal al-Abed Qasem, an officer of the camp‘s pro-Fatah security forces, said for his part that the man who opened fire “was not a member of the Fatah movement or the security forces“, saying he was prepared to accept an “investigation“, according to Lebanon‘s official ANI news agency.
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The Lebanese army said last night that the security forces in the Palestinian refugee camp of al-Bash had handed over the alleged perpetrator of the attack on Burj al-Semali and that an investigation had begun, specifying that the suspect was a Palestinian. The al-Bash and Burj al-Semali camps are both located in the Tyre region.
For its part, Hamas released a statement last night blaming the Palestinian Authority security forces for the “direct responsibility” for “the murder” of its members, calling on them, like Fatah, to take “full responsibility for this crime“.
Speaking to Reuters by telephone from Beirut, the Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon, Ashraf Dabour, rejected Hamas‘ accusations. “This is an action that we condemn (. . . ). We contacted Hamas leaders and demanded that they await the results of the investigation” to be conducted by a “committee“ being formed, he said.
Several deaths and injuries are reported during an armed clash at the funeral of Hamza Shaheen, the Hamas member killed in the explosion in Burj Shamali in Lebanon on Friday night. pic.twitter.com/ZMNpjZpGIW
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Already before the shooting, armed elements of both Fatah and Hamas, the two largest Palestinian factions, had been deployed in the area where the funeral was to take place yesterday, a resident of the camp said. Mourners shouted pro-Hamas slogans in the streets.
Another resident of Burj al-Semali said that a “fight had started with the arrival of the funeral convoy at the camp‘s cemetery, when suddenly someone opened fire in the direction of the crowd“.
“After that, I don‘t know who was shooting at whom,” he added, referring to gunfire from all directions.
Another resident of the camp recounted that “when the firing started, the funeral procession left (. . . ) and the people fled. ” Since then the atmosphere has been very tense and Fatah has put its forces on alert, he added.
On Friday night, the camp was hit by a powerful explosion that killed one person.
Hamas said it was due to a “short circuit in a warehouse containing gas and oxygen tanks intended for patients with the new coronavirus“, while a source close to the Lebanese army said the explosion occurred in a warehouse of weapons and ammunition belonging to the armed arm of the Islamist faction.
The blast left one dead, Hamza Shaheen, Hamas said the day before yesterday, adding that the member was carrying out a “mission“, without giving further details, and that he succumbed to his injuries.
Lebanon hosts at least 192,000 Palestinian refugees, the majority of them in 12 camps on its territory, according to official figures dating back to 2020.
They live in poverty in the camps, where the infrastructure is in shambles.
Under an agreement concluded many years ago, the Lebanese army does not enter these camps, where security is guaranteed by the Palestinian factions.
These factions carry weapons inside the camps, where attacks, killings and hostilities between rival organisations have been recorded in recent decades.
The presence of armed Palestinians in Lebanon has been constant since the 1970s, when rebels began conducting operations against Israel from within the country‘s territory before the Lebanese civil war broke out in 1975.
In 1982, following Israel‘s invasion of Lebanon, 11,000 Palestinian fighters fled the country.