The Palestinians: Refugee Camps or Terrorist Bases?
by Khaled Abu Toameh
July 21, 2016
ISIS is on the mind of the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership. Top PA officials have expressed concern that jihadi groups, including ISIS, have managed to infiltrate Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
Lebanese authorities are also worried — so worried that they have issued a stiff warning to the Palestinians: Stop the terrorists or else we will take security into our own hands.
According to Lebanese security sources, more and more Palestinians in Lebanon have joined ISIS and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, a Sunni Islamist militia fighting against Syrian government forces. In response, the Lebanese security forces have taken a series of measures in a bid to contain the problem and prevent the two Islamist terror groups from establishing bases of power in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
According to some reports, dozens of Palestinians from Lebanon who joined ISIS and Al-Nusra Front have been killed or wounded in Syria in recent months. Most of those who were killed have been buried in Syria, the reports said.
Alarmed by the success of ISIS and Al-Nusra Front in recruiting dozens of Palestinians to their ranks, the Palestinian Authority leadership this week sent Azzam Al-Ahmed, a senior advisor to President Mahmoud Abbas, to Beirut for urgent talks with Lebanese government officials on ways of containing the escalation. The PA leadership fears that the heightened activities of the two terrorist groups in the refugee camps will force the Lebanese army to launch a massive military operation to get rid of the terrorists, who pose an immediate threat to Lebanese national security.
Al-Ahmed, who is in charge of the Lebanon Portfolio in the Palestinian Authority, held a series of meetings with Lebanese government officials in a bid to avoid a security showdown between the Lebanese army and the Palestinians living in the country’s refugee camps. Following a meeting with Lebanese Interior Minister Nihad Al-Mashnouk, the Palestinian envoy said that the talks focused on the need to take “joint steps to ensure security stability in the Palestinian refugee camps.” According to Al-Ahmed, the talks also dealt with ways to prevent certain parties, especially ISIS and Al-Nusra Front, from exploiting the Palestinian refugee camps to threaten Lebanon’s security interests.
Lebanese security officials have reported direct contacts between ISIS leaders in Syria and some senior Islamist figures in the Ain Al-Hilweh refugee camp, the largest camp in Lebanon, with a population of more of than 120,000 — half of them refugees who fled Syria since 2011. The officials said that one of the commanders of ISIS in Syria, Abu Khaled Al-Iraqi, has stepped up his contacts with Palestinians in Ain Al-Hilweh in recent weeks, in preparation for launching terrorist attacks against Lebanese targets. The Lebanese have named a number of Palestinians from Ain Al-Hilweh evidently serving as ISIS representatives in Lebanon: Emad Yasmin, Helal Helal, Abed Fadda, Nayef Abdullah and Abu Hamzeh Mubarak.
Last week, Palestinian sources revealed that one of the jihadi leaders in Ain Al-Hilweh, Omar Abu Kharoub, nicknamed Abu Muhtaseb Al-Maqdisi, was killed while fighting alongside ISIS in Syria. The sources said that he is only one of hundreds of Palestinians from Lebanon who have joined ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front.
The Lebanese government has informed the Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah that at least 300 jihadi terrorists are now barricaded inside Ain Al-Hilweh. “The situation has become intolerable and we can no longer turn a blind eye to this threat,” the Lebanese warned the PA.
The Islamist terrorists who have found shelter inside Ain Al-Hilweh have repeatedly warned the Lebanese authorities against launching a military attack against the refugee camp.