SIDON, Lebanon — At least one person has been killed and several wounded in clashes that erupted in a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon, a Palestinian official told AFP on Tuesday.
The clash that saw fighters use machineguns and rocket-propelled-grenades broke out in the sprawling, overcrowded camp of Ain Al-Helweh on Monday night and continued on Tuesday, the official said on condition of anonymity.
The fighting initially erupted as a family feud pitting members of Fatah against extremists from the Islamist Fatah al-Islam group.
The Fatah militants, loyal to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and who are the main force in Ain Al-Helweh camp, shot at a man believed to be a Fatah Al-Islam militant suspected of recent violence in the camp, said the official.
The Islamist was wounded, but the shots killed a passer-by, the official said. Five other people were hurt.
"It's an act of vengeance because of old quarrels," the official added.
The Lebanese army deployed reinforcements to the edges of the camp as violence escalated, but troops did not enter the premises given a tacit agreement between the army and Palestinian factions that prevents them from entering Palestinian refugee camps across Lebanon.
Dozens of families fled the camp amid the latest violence, among them Palestinians who have recently taken refuge in Ain Al-Helweh after escaping bloodshed in Palestinian refugee camps in neighbouring Syria.
Some 2,200 Palestinian and Syrian families have left their homes in Syria for Ain al-Helweh in recent months, the Palestinian official said.
Ain Al-Helweh is Lebanon's biggest Palestinian camp housing more than 45,000 people.
Violence, assassinations and feuds are frequent in Ain al-Helweh, located in the suburbs of the south Lebanese city of Sidon.
Extremists have in recent years taken advantage of the miserable living conditions in the camp to set up cells there.
In 2007, battles pitted the Lebanese army against Fatah Al-Islam members in the northern Palestinian camp of Nahr Al-Bared, killing more than 400 people, among them 168 soldiers. — AFP