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UN suspends services at Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon over gunmen in its facilities

BEIRUT (AP) — The UN Agency for Palestine Refugees says it decided to suspend all its services Friday at Lebanon’s largest refugee camp in protest of the presence of gunmen in its facilities.

UNRWA’s decision took effect shortly before noon on Friday at the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp near the southern port city of Sidon. Services will resume on Saturday, UNRWA said.

Days of street fighting took place in the camp between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah group and two Islamist militant groups, Jund al Sham and Shabab al Muslim. The clashes broke out on July 30 after Fatah accused its rivals of shooting dead a senior Fatah military official.

According to UNRWA officials, the fighting killed at least 13 people, injured dozens, and caused millions of dollars in damage to the camp.

Lebanese security forces do not operate in the refugee camps, where security is in the hands of Palestinian factions often vying for influence.

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UNRWA said in its statement on Friday that armed fighters are still present in its facilities, including schools. It added that UNRWA reiterates its call for armed actors to immediately evacuate its facilities, “to ensure unimpeded delivery of much-needed aid to refugees.”

UNRWA said it “will not tolerate actions that violate the inviolability and neutrality of its installations”. It added that schools are unlikely to be available for 3,200 children at the start of the new school year, given repeated violations and significant damage.

Ein el-Hilweh is home to more than 50,000 people and is the largest of Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps.

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