Palestinians outside refugee camps must disarm: Lebanon

BEIRUT - The Lebanese government has reiterated its call for Palestinian groups outside refugee camps to disarm, saying the issue was “not up for negotiation.”

By (AFP)

Published: Wed 20 Jan 2010, 7:16 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 7:41 AM

“Lebanese sovereignty is not open to negotiation,” Information Minister Tareq Mitri said after a cabinet meeting late on Tuesday.

“We should implement the decision to disarm Palestinians outside of refugee camps and deal with the problem of arms and security within the camps,” he said, referring to a 2006 accord on disarmament between rival Lebanese leaders.

On Monday, the leader of a Syrian-backed Palestinian group said it would not disarm outside of the refugee camps but was willing to discuss where in Lebanon it holds its arms.

“Palestinian arms inside or outside the camps are part of our resistance against the Zionist enemy,” said Fatah al-Intifada chief Said Mussa, who is also known as “Abu Mussa.”

“The presence of these arms does not affect Lebanese security,” Abu Mussa said, offering to talk to the Lebanese government “about the positioning of our arms.”

The statement came less than a month after Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s landmark visit to Syria, after which Hariri said he had discussed Palestinian arms held outside of camps with President Bashar al-Assad.

Fatah al-Intifada was founded with Syrian backing during the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war and has bases in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border.

The Syria-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), led by Ahmad Jibril, also holds positions in Lebanon.

UN Security Council Resolution 1559, adopted in 2004, calls on Lebanon to assert sovereignty on the whole of its territory and disarm all militias, including armed Palestinian factions.

By longstanding convention, however, the Lebanese army does not enter Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps, leaving security inside in the hands of Palestinians.

Along with armed Lebanese factions, Palestinian guerrilla groups played a major part in Lebanon’s civil war.

Palestinian factions and Lebanon’s Shiite militant group Hezbollah were the only parties not to surrender their weapons after the war, saying they were needed as defence against Israel.

But unlike most Palestinian factions in Lebanon, which are located inside the camps and remain loyal to Gaza or the West Bank, Fatah al-Intifada and the PFLP-GC continue to be backed by Syria.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees lists nearly 400,000 refugees in Lebanon, while Lebanese and Palestinian officials say the number may be as low as 250,000.

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