April 11, 2017 / 2:34 PM / 5 months ago

Palestinians vow to disband Islamist group in volatile Lebanese camp

A member of the Palestinian Fatah faction fires his weapon during clashes against hard line Sunni Islamists known as the Badr group inside the Ain el-Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon, southern Lebanon April 11, 2017. Palestinian leaders said on Tuesday they would break up an armed Islamist group involved in clashes with security forces inside the volatile Ain el-Hilweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

AIN EL-HILWEH, Lebanon (Reuters) - Palestinian leaders said on Tuesday they would break up an armed Islamist group involved in clashes with security forces inside the volatile Ain el-Hilweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon.

At least seven people have been killed since Friday as combatants have exchanged machine gun, rocket and mortar fire in the crowded camp near the coastal city of Sidon.

The situation was calmer on Tuesday though gunfire could still be heard in the camp, witnesses said.

The battles have pitted a joint security force including the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and allied factions against the Sunni Islamist Badr group.

Fighting broke out after the security force sought to deploy throughout the camp and met resistance from the Badr group.

Fatah’s head in Lebanon said the security force would deploy in all areas of the camp with the aim of disbanding the Badr group and arresting its leader, Bilal Badr.

“Wherever the security find him, they must arrest him, present him to justice and hand him over to the Lebanese state,” Fathi Abu al-Aradat told a televised press conference in Sidon.

The incident has raised fears of spiraling violence in Ain el-Hilweh, which has seen intermittent clashes in recent months.

Lebanon’s Palestinian camps, which date back to the 1948 war between Israel and its Arab neighbors, mainly fall outside the jurisdiction of Lebanese security services. There are some 450,000 Palestinian refugees living in 12 camps in Lebanon.

Editing by Mark Heinrich

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