Two Palestinians were killed on Monday in clashes with the army at refugee camps in Lebanon that also left several people wounded, including soldiers, security officials said.
The violence first broke out at the Nahr al-Bared camp near the northern costal city of Tripoli following the funeral of a refugee who had been killed by the military on Friday, according to a security official.
“One Palestinian refugee was killed and seven others were wounded” by gunfire, the official said on condition of anonymity.
News of the incident raised tension in other Palestinian camps across the country, including Ain al-Helweh in the south, where clashes between residents and the army also left a 20-year-old Palestinian dead and at least eight injured, a security official told AFP.
In a statement, the Lebanese army said three soldiers were injured in Nahr al-Bared.
The army used “tear gas and rubber bullets, and then fired live rounds at people who insisted on attacking (a military post), leading to several of the attackers being injured”, said the statement.
It added that youths threw Molotov cocktails at the soldiers and torched an army vehicle as well as part of the military post. It blamed “infiltrators” for the unrest.
A camp resident said soldiers had opened fire on the youths without provocation.
“The situation in the camp has been tense for days,” another camp resident told AFP. “Both the army and the youths were provoking each other. We fear something bigger is being prepared, because the army is deploying in large numbers around the camp now.”
Troop reinforcements were also sent to Ain al-Helweh on Monday as angry residents attacked army checkpoints at two entrances to the camp with Molotov cocktails and stones.
Dozens of families fearing an escalation fled the camp, located near the southern coastal city of Sidon and the largest of Lebanon’s 12 refugee camps.
On Friday, the army shot dead a Palestinian and wounded three others when a dispute over identity papers at Nahr al-Bared turned violent, a Palestinian source said.
Nahr al-Bared was almost totally destroyed in 2007 during a months-long conflict between the Lebanese military and a small Al-Qaeda-inspired group called Fatah al-Islam.
The fighting killed some 400 people, including 168 soldiers.
The military controls access to the camp and has checkpoints inside Nahr al-Bared — the only camp in Lebanon under the direct control of the Lebanese security forces.
By long-standing convention, the Lebanese army does not enter the refugee camps, leaving security inside to the Palestinians themselves.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) estimates that some 425,000 Palestinian refugees are living in Lebanon, a country with a population of four million.
Others, however, estimate the number to be closer to 250,000.