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Fatah gives deadline for handover of killers in Lebanon refugee camp

BEIRUT (AP) – A top official with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah group said on Sunday that Palestinian and Lebanese officials have given militant groups in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp until the end of the month to hand over the accused killers of a Fatah general.

A fragile calm has largely prevailed in the Ein el-Hilweh camp since Thursday night after the warring sides reached the latest in a series of cease-fire agreements.

It followed a week of intense fighting that killed at least 18 people and wounded and displaced hundreds.

Top officials from rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas had travelled to Lebanon to negotiate an end to the clashes.

Member of Fatah’s central committee and of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization Azzam al-Ahmad told The Associated Press on Sunday he is “optimistic about reaching a solution”. But, he added, if the accused are not handed over by the end of the month, “all possibilities are open”.

Member of Fatah’s central committee and of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization Azzam Al-Ahmad during an interview at the Palestinian embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. PHOTO: AP

Al-Ahmad said Fatah is not opposed to the Lebanese army entering the camp to conduct an operation against the militant groups should they not turn over the men accused of killing Fatah military general Mohammad “Abu Ashraf” al-Armoushi.

By tradition, Lebanese soldiers do not enter the Palestinian camps, which are controlled by a network of Palestinian factions.

The last time Lebanon’s army intervened in the camps was in 2007, when it battled extremists in the Nahr al-Bared camp, razing most of it in the process.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, has officially stood on the sidelines in the clashes between Fatah and extremist groups in the camp, but al-Ahmad accused Hamas members of taking up arms against Fatah “in some areas of fighting”, an accusation that Hamas has denied.

Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk said in a message via WhatsApp “we were not involved in the shooting at all” and that “there have been continuous efforts” by Hamas to broker a “cease-fire agreement in any form”.

Hamas spokesman in Lebanon Walid Kilani denied that a specific deadline had been set for handing over the killers.

“What was agreed upon there will be the formation of a joint security force that includes all Palestinian factions” to implement the handover of people “wanted by both sides”, he said.

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