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Two Die in Lebanese Refugee Clash

August 13, 2002

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SIDON, Lebanon (AP) _ Palestinians and Lebanese militants fought with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades in the narrow alleys of a refugee camp Tuesday, leaving two men dead and seven wounded.

In the heaviest clash in Ein el-Hilweh camp in 10 years, Islamic militants attacked a post of the Palestinian Armed Struggle, which is linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction and supervises security in the camp. The shootout lasted about 45 minutes, according to Lebanese and Palestinian officials.

A Fatah official, Maher Shabaytiyeh, said the attackers belonged to the Palestinian faction Asbat al-Ansar and a group of Lebanese militants hiding in the camp.

The Lebanese militants had fled to Ein el-Hilweh, which is outside the southern port of Sidon, after a clash with the national army in the northern region of Dinniyah more than two years ago.

``There is general consensus among Palestinians that they should be arrested and handed over (to Lebanese authorities) today rather than tomorrow,″ the head of Fatah in the camp, Khaled Aref, said of the Dinniyah militants.

But one militant, Abu Ramiz, said he and his colleagues would not surrender to the authorities under any circumstances.

A Palestinian from Armed Struggle and a Lebanese militant were killed, said Lebanese security officials, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity. Seven other men, including five from Armed Struggle and Fatah, were wounded.

Ein el-Hilweh is the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon and home to about 75,000 Palestinian refugees and their descendants. The camp is off-limits to the Lebanese government and run by various Palestinian factions who frequently reach for their weapons to settle their differences.

Lebanese authorities guard Ein el-Hilweh’s gates but do not enter the camp, where several Palestinians wanted by the police are believed to be hiding.

One of the wanted men is Ahmad Abdel-Karim al-Saadi, better known as Abu Mohjen, who is the leader of Asbat al-Ansar. The group is on a U.S. list of terror organizations.

Tensions have been building up in the camp since last month when a militant group handed over to Lebanese security forces a Lebanese man suspected of killing three soldiers near Ein el-Hilweh.

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