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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

May 26, 2003

Lebanon, Syria, and the Palestinian refugee camps

Beirutcalling offers a few interesting observations about what is taking place within Lebanon. It seems the Lebanese government is constrained from making peace among conflicting factions in the Palestinian camps, and the Syrian occupiers impose constraints upon the Lebanese government. Will this growing antagonism foment somne sort of internal explosion?
Disarm Ain al-Hilweh
It is intriguing to see that a government willing to dispatch agents to hassle Lebanese Forces sympathizers at a funeral in far off Bsharri cannot care a hoot about a Palestinian state-within-a-state in Ain al-Hilweh.

Interior Minister Elias Murr had this to say on his return from a recent trip: "We are against fighting in the camp and strongly deplore the killing of innocent people. As to the gangs inside the camps, such as Esbat al-Ansar and others, we will not permit them to foment disorder in territory under state control, and these people will face justice one day."

The statement was laudable in its intent and bizarre in its context. It begged the obvious question: Why can't the Lebanese Army simply disarm the camps and arrest those fomenting disorder in territory verifiably not under state control? After all, most of us have spent a decade paying a tithe to ensure the army receives a lion's share of budget spending, and have utter faith that it can prevail. [Continued]

[Resume] Perhaps military doctrine dictates otherwise. In much the same way as the army cannot be deployed on the border with Israel, our officers have possibly deemed entry into Ain al-Hilweh (which incidentally harbor the killers of several of their military intelligence comrades) as strategically imprudent. Or, there could be other reasons that are more complicated.

For elucidation we should look at the perennial rivalry between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Syria. Though such things aren’t publicized, it is Syria’s yearning to deliver Lebanon’s Palestinians to an overall regional settlement. As Damascus contemplates its depleted hand, it still has some cards to play in Lebanon, one of them its control over the refugee camps in Beirut, Tripoli and the Biqaa. With the Rashidiyyeh camp in Tyre under Arafat’s influence, Ain al-Hilweh has become the main battleground between Syria and the Palestinian leader.[more]