SIDON, Lebanon: At a time when barricades are being raised in parts of north Lebanon and the Bekaa, the residents of the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh are set to tear one down.
The unprecedented agreement to remove a military barricade at the northern entrance of the camp facing the Lebanese Army’s checkpoint was made by the Palestinian National Security body, in cooperation with Islamist groups in the camp.
On the eve of the step, news of which has received praise from Palestinian and Lebanese figures alike, a statement was distributed in Ain al-Hilweh that included an invitation to residents to participate in breaking down the barricade.
“Under the patronage of the commander of the Palestinian National Security body, Sobhi Abu Arab, and the Islamist forces in the camp represented by Sheikh Abu Obeida, the Palestinian Youth Gathering in Ain al-Hilweh calls for removing the military barricades in the Tawarii-Baraksat area to confirm that the camp’s security is paramount and ... in order to confirm the unity and solidarity of its residents at noon Friday,” said the statement.
The development is the culmination of months of efforts directed toward building stability.
Public figures in Sidon expressed relief at the step and described it as a significant achievement that came as a result of cooperation between Palestinians and Lebanese in Sidon to preserve security and stability in the camp and its environs.
These efforts included building bridges of trust between Palestinian forces and Lebanese security forces, especially the Army.
Dismantling the barricade, according to sources, is a response to renewed focus on the security problems in the camp, including unconfirmed reports that there had been movement in and out of the camp of armed groups that are involved in local and regional conflicts.
Palestinian sources, however, linked the removal decision to an improvement in the relationship between Palestinians forces and Army Intelligence.
The sources said the step was a goodwill initiative by the forces toward the Army and a message to the Lebanese government that the camp no longer needs any barricades and is under Lebanese authority.
These sources predicted that the step would be positive and could lead to removing other barricades inside the camp and expressed hope that it would be accompanied by movement on disputed issues between the camp and the Lebanese government, including the issue of fugitives in the camp.