UN agency calls for $15.5m in financial aid for Ain Al Hilweh camp relief

UNRWA seeks funds to cover schooling for nearly 6,000 children and infrastructure repairs

Palestinian residents evacuate their homes after clashes between supporters of the Fatah movement and rival groups in August. EPA
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The UN agency for Palestinian refugees has called for $15.5 million in financial assistance to aid its emergency response in Lebanon’s Ain Al Hilweh camp for Palestinian refugees, where a six-day battle between Palestinian factions and militants linked to Al Qaeda caused significant damage in late July and August.

Dorothee Klaus, director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, said the conflict in the camp has not yet been resolved.

Since the end of the clashes, extremists have barricaded themselves in all eight UNRWA-run schools at the camp and looted materials.

The crisis has left about 6,000 children in educational limbo.

“None of the eight UNRWA schools will be available for the children at the beginning of the new academic year,” Ms Klaus said.

“With fighters continuing to occupy UNRWA schools, they remain too insecure and off limits for schoolchildren.”

UNRWA’s call on Wednesday for $15.5 million in funding is part of efforts to secure alternative schooling outside the camp that will accommodate the 5,900 schoolchildren affected by the takeover.

The battle broke out following the death of high-profile Fatah commander Abu Ashraf Al Armoushi and four of his bodyguards.

Fatah is Ain Al Hilweh’s most powerful faction and the party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Thirteen people were killed in the violence, while dozens were injured and thousands have been forced to flee.

Fatah has demanded the surrender of those responsible for Mr Al Armoushi’s killing, but its deadline passed this week.

Tensions have been high among residents of the camp – the largest for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon – since the fighting eased, amid fears it will reignite.

Lebanon’s refugee camps are highly dependent on the UNRWA to provide services including education, health care and waste collection.

The agency also plans to use the funding cover public infrastructure repair and provide cash assistance for refugee families who were affected by or lost their homes in the conflict.

The UN agency has repeatedly called for armed groups to withdraw from its facilities.

While clashes in Ain Al Hilweh between rival factions are not uncommon, this month’s battles were especially ferocious due to the high-profile nature of the assassination.

The camp has earned a reputation for being a haven for outlaws and small networks of Islamist militants, owing to a decades-long agreement that prevents the Lebanese state from entering the camps – although Fatah has for years attempted to contain their presence.

Updated: August 31, 2023, 11:24 AM