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Divisions Increase Among Palestinian Factions in Syria

Rifts in Fatah al-Intifada have emerged as support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime ebbs and flows throughout various Palestinian refugee groups in Syria and Lebanon, writes Mohammad Harfoush.
Palestinian children who were living in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp before fleeing Syria, hold up banners during a protest in front of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Beirut January 17, 2013. Banners read, "The International Committee of the Red Cross is the conscience of the international community towards refugees" (R) and "Why the international community miserly to some places, and generous in some others?".  REUTERS/Sharif Karim (LEBANON - Tags: SOCIETY IMMIGRATION POLITI

A rift has widened within the Palestinian factions supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, following the crisis in Syria and the developments in the Yarmouk refugee camp.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), led by Ahmad Jibril, has seen strong internal disagreement that has caused a split and the subsequent formation of the Free Popular Front. The division was contagious, and shortly thereafter infected the Fatah al-Intifada movement led by Said al-Muragha, also known as Abu Moussa, who died on Jan. 29.

The movement is mired in political and organizational disputes that have produced a wave of resignations by key figures and military groups. A state of high alert is spreading over the movement’s offices in the Lebanese region of Bekaa.

In a significant development of events that reflects the deep internal rifts within Fatah al-Intifada, the command has closed its headquarters in the Ain al-Hilweh camp. It has become a shelter for displaced Palestinians from the Yarmouk camp. This measure stemmed from fear of attacks similar to those conducted against the headquarters of as-Saiqa and of the General Command. The first was used by the Palestinian Follow-Up Committee, and the second served as a shelter for the displaced. Fatah al-Intifada is the third Palestinian faction to shut down its headquarters in the camp.

The attacks have heightened tensions within the offices of the movement in Bekaa. The ten headquarters are located in different regions, including Wadi al-Oussoud, Balta, Hilweh and Deir al-Ashair. The militants number 500, and they are equipped with different types of arms: mortar bombs, anti-tanks arms, 106 mm cannons, B-10 cannons and anti-aircraft weapons.

Fatah al-Intifada was established in 1983, as an offshoot of the Fatah movement led by late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. The newly formed movement created close ties with Syria and Iran. Following bloody fights and with backing from Syrian forces in Lebanon, it was able to toss out Fatah militants from the northern city of Tripoli in the 1980s.

Fatah al-Intifada was among the Palestinian factions that chose to base their main headquarters in Damascus and fiercely refused the Oslo Agreements of 1993. The movement remained a ferocious advocate for the armed struggle against Israel.

Mohammad Harfoush is a Lebanese journalist reporting for the Kuwaiti Al-Anbaa newspaper and the author of Eritrea: Basic Facts.

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