The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees says it has decided to suspend all of its services in Lebanon’s largest refugee camp on Friday in protest against the presence of gunmen in its facilities.

UNRWA’s decision went into effect shortly before noon Friday at the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp near the southern port city of Sidon. Services will resume Saturday, UNRWA said.

Days of street battles took place in the camp between the Fatah group of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and two Islamic militant groups, Jund al Sham and Shabab al Muslim. The clashes broke out on July 30, after Fatah accused its rivals of shooting dead a senior Fatah military official.

The fighting killed at least 13 people, injured dozens and caused millions of dollars’ of damage in the camp, according to UNRWA officials.

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On June 20, 2023, within Lebanon’s southern port city of Sidon, a Palestinian woman obtains medication from a physician at a clinic overseen by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari, File)

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Lebanese security forces don’t operate inside the refugee camps, where security is in the hands of Palestinian factions who often compete for clout.

UNRWA said in its statement Friday that armed fighters are still present in its facilities, including schools. It added that UNRWA reiterates its call on armed actors to immediately vacate its facilities, “to ensure unimpeded delivery of much-needed assistance to refugees.”

UNRWA said it “does not tolerate actions that breach the inviolability and neutrality of its installations.” It added that schools are unlikely to be available for 3,200 children at the start of the new school year given repeated violations and significant damage reported.

Ein el-Hilweh is home to more than 50,000 people and is the largest of 12 Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.



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