Dozens Killed and Injured in Ain al-Hilweh Refugee Camp, Lebanon

Update (1429 EST): The Lebanese Army has issued a warning to militant groups within the camp, saying that they will “respond in kind” to any threats against their forces. The announcement reads below:

“On 7/30/2023, as a result of clashes inside Ain al-Hilweh camp – Sidon, a shell fell in a military center, and army posts and observation points came under fire, injuring a number of soldiers. The Army Command warns of the consequences of exposing military centers and their personnel to danger, whatever the reasons, and stresses that the Army will respond to the sources of fire in kind.”

At approximately 1613 EST on July 29th, 2023, initial reports of armed clashes at the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon began. Ain al-Hilweh is the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. It had a population of over 70,000 Palestinian refugees but swelled to nearly 120,000, due to the influx of refugees from Syria since 2011.

By 1700 EST, at least five had been injured in a targeted shooting against political activists. By 2200 EST, heavy automatic gunfire and shelling from light mortars erupted throughout Sidon, where the camp is located. By 2200 EST, three had been killed and at least twelve had been taken to various hospitals in the city. The worst fighting seemed to originate in the Asbat al-Ansar neighborhood of the camp.

By 0725 EST on July 30th, 2023, Lebanon National Security Forces troops had been injured and killed in several rocket attacks and mortar strikes originating from inside the camp. National Security Commander Abu Ashraf al-Armoushi and two others had reportedly been shot and another soldier had been injured when a mortar fell inside the military center of the camp.

The Lebanese Army then shut down all checkpoints into the camp, especially the al-Hiswa entrance which services thousands of people a day. By 0915 EST, Osbat al-Ansar had called for a ceasefire with other militant groups and the Lebanese Army, claiming they had not been responsible for the killing of Lebanese army troops. Osbat al-Ansar is a Sunni fundamentalist group established in the early 1990s, with a primary base of operations in the Palestinian camp of Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon, which claims to profess the Salafi form of Islam and the overthrow of the Lebanese-dominated secular government.

By 1100 EST, the major militant groups in the camp had agreed to a ceasefire. However, in the last hour, several dozen shells have been fired inside the camp. The United Nations mission to the amp has ceased operations while the fighting continues.

The clashes began yesterday after rival militant groups orchestrated an assassination attempt and ambush on members of Fatah, formerly the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, a Palestinian nationalist and social democratic political party. The fighting has been ongoing since. It is not currently clear if the Lebanese military plans on intervening inside the camp.

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Ethan Alun
Ethan Alun
A United States Naval Academy and American Military University Alumni, Ethan covers flash military, intelligence, and geo-political updates.
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