UAE reminds citizens not to travel to Lebanon following Ain Al Hilweh clashes

Government stresses importance of advice after deadly violence at refugee camp

Palestinians, who fled their homes after clashes in Ain Al Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, rest in a mosque in Saida, Lebanon. EPA
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The UAE on Sunday advised citizens to not travel to Lebanon, where a week of heavy fighting between armed factions in a Palestinian refugee camp has prompted similar notices from other nations in recent days.

The advisory is in place to preserve the safety of UAE citizens, Wam news agency reported on Sunday, citing a decision from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Lebanon's caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati on Saturday said there was no cause for "concern or panic" after continuing violence in the Ain Al Hilweh refugee camp prompted several European and Gulf countries to issue travel warnings.

Mr Mikati said there had been "significant progress" in resolving tensions in the restive camp, where 13 people have been killed and more than 60 injured in the fighting.

He said after talks with security chiefs there was "no cause for concern".

Sparked by the assassination of a Fatah commander and his four bodyguards on July 30, clashes continued throughout the week as militants fired rocket-propelled grenades and deployed snipers within the densely populated camp.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Germany and the UK have all updated travel advice to Lebanon in light of the violence, urging their citizens to take precautions and, in some cases, leave the country as soon as possible.

On Friday, Riyadh told its citizens to leave Lebanon as quickly as possible, stressing "the importance of adhering to the Saudi travel ban to Lebanon" in a statement on the X social media platform, formerly known as Twitter.

Kuwait advised citizens in Lebanon to stay vigilant and avoid "areas of security disturbances" but stopped short of asking them to leave the country. Qatar issued similar advice.

The UN's Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said about 2,000 of Ain Al Hilweh's estimated 50,000 residents had been displaced by fighting between mainstream faction Fatah and hardline Islamist groups entrenched in the sprawling camp.

Many have sought refuge in schools and mosques administered by UNWRA.

A ceasefire brokered on Monday was broken repeatedly, although fighting had mainly subsided by Thursday.

Palestinian factions met at the embassy in Beirut on Thursday amid efforts to prolong the truce, Lebanese media reported.

Mr Mikati threatened to send the army into the camp amid fears the clashes could spread to nearby cities.

In a phone call with Palestinian Prime Minister and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, he said the army would "play the required role" in ending the clashes.

About 400,000 refugees live in Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian camps, which date back to the war of 1948.

Ain Al Hilweh has long been the fighting ground for vying gangs and militant groups based there, which have grown in influence under an agreement that largely prevents the Lebanese army from entering Palestinian refugee camps.

Residents told The National of falling asleep to the sound of bombs during the clashes, while rockets and shrapnel landed in nearby military headquarters and injured soldiers.

Two UNWRA-run schools were also damaged in the fighting.

The agency called "on all militant parties to ensure civilians' safety and respect inviolability of UN premises", in a statement from its Lebanon chief Dorothee Klaus.

Updated: August 06, 2023, 3:36 PM