The Palestinian leadership is upset about the Lebanese media’s portrayal of Ain al-Hilweh camp as a haven for Shadi al-Mawlawi and Osama Mansour, who are both key terrorist figures wanted by the security agencies.
In this regard, the leadership was surprised by the announcement by Lebanese Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk’s that the two men were located in Ain al-Hilweh camp prior to him informing the Palestinian Authority, who learned about the issue from the media. It was also before Fatah Central Committee member and General Supervisor for Lebanese affairs, Azzam al-Ahmad, received official notice from Lebanese officials and headed to Beirut, on the orders of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in order to determine the truth of the matter.
Today [Jan. 23], a frank meeting will be held between Ahmad and Machnouk, with the participation of all Palestinian factions, including Hamas, as part of a Palestinian political message of unity concerning their camp and their public stance vis-a-vis coordination with the Lebanese state.
In an interview with As-Safir at the Palestinian Embassy Jan. 22, Ahmad stated that Mansour and Mawlawi’s presence in the camp remained “uncertain to date.”
He also pointed out that, “No one can legally enter the camp without Lebanese consent. Even I, as a Palestinian official who is not an inhabitant of the camp, cannot enter except through coordination with the Lebanese state. Illegally infiltrating the camp is another issue and we are ready to cooperate with the Lebanese authorities in this regard. But, to date, we remain uncertain whether those two wanted persons actually infiltrated the camp, and announcing otherwise prior to informing us is unacceptable. In either case, we are not responsible if they prove to have infiltrated the camp.”
In reply to proposed ideas for a repeat of the Roumieh Prison scenario in Ain al-Hilweh, whereby Lebanese security forces would enter the camp to apprehend wanted terrorists, Ahmad said, “I am not aware of such plans. But, I emphasize that we stand with the Lebanese state spreading its authority over all Lebanese territories, including Palestinian camps. I hope that the state will exercise its functions in the entirety of the camp and be able to conduct any operations it pleases; for this camp is not located on the planet Venus, but on Lebanese soil.”
In addition, Ahmad revealed that he and the Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon, Ashraf Dabbour, conducted an honest discussion with Lebanese officials, who were “very understanding of the Palestinian stance.” Ahmad also described Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri as “a Palestinian at heart and cooperative to the utmost.” Also, Ahmad and Dabbour’s meeting with the director general of General Security, Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, in the absence of other Palestinian factions, “lasted for many hours and led to agreements on all issues. The relationship with Maj. Gen. Ibrahim is very special, but no details can be revealed about the meeting.”
Ahmad added: “Lebanon is home to many fugitives who threaten civil peace. We, as Palestinians, are committed to Lebanon’s security and are ready to cooperate with authorities to hand over any wanted persons, whether they be accused of criminal or subversive acts. God forbid that the camp becomes a haven for such people. We stand by our agreements and the Lebanese government has not informed us of the presence of any wanted persons inside Ain al-Hilweh camp. We only became aware of these contentions through the statements of our brother, Lebanese Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk. Yet, we are not aware of anything relating to this matter. The camp is on Lebanese territory and is subject to Lebanese sovereignty and law. Even if fugitives entered the camp, we contend that there are other fugitives that the state has no knowledge of in various Lebanese regions, be they in Beirut, Tripoli or elsewhere.”
Ahmad added that Lebanon was understanding about the Palestinian point of view, “Because Lebanese officials are fully aware of the high level of cooperation between us in order to prevent the camps from becoming a safe haven for outlaws.”
He emphasized the importance of the joint security force, saying, “The powers of which shall be bolstered, in order to make it better able to conduct its duties; a point that we agreed upon with all relevant Lebanese officials.”
Concerning the unification of security responsibilities, in light of the divisions within Fatah and the return of former Palestinian Armed Struggle commander Mahmoud al-Hamid Issa, also known as Lino, to the camp, Ahmad said, “There are no divisions within Fatah. There is, however, a renegade officer who was dismissed from duty more than a year ago: end of subject.” Regarding the celebration organized by Lino in the camp, in parallel with the torch lighting festivities commemorating Fatah’s 50-year anniversary, Ahmad retorted, “You should ask him about that, for that is not our concern. People who are not bound by the decisions of Fatah’s leadership in Lebanon have nothing to do with us.”
Ahmad added that the intra-Fatah disagreements in occupied Palestine, between Mohammed Dahlan and Abbas, do not affect the camps in Lebanon. They therefore have no security implications, said Ahmad, adding, “Even the relationship with Hamas in Lebanon is harmonious. There is no place here for the infamous Palestinian disputes that everyone knows about, because we insist on shielding the Lebanese arena from their repercussions.”
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