The shooting deaths apparently stemmed from infighting between members of the Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza and the Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders of the West Bank.
By Erin Viner
4 Hamas members were reportedly shot to death and several others injured in an armed clash on Sunday in the Palestinian camp of Burj al-Shemali in Lebanon during a funeral for one member of terror group who died in an explosion at the same site on Friday.
The internationally-recognized Hamas terror group seized Gaza from Fatah control in a brutal internecine Palestinian conflict in 2007. Multiple attempts to end power-sharing disputes between the two sides have repeatedly ended in failure.
Hamas official Raafat al-Murra said Fatah gunmen “shot at the funeral procession,” while another of the group’s leaders, who asked not to be named, added that the armed Fatah members “deliberately opened fire against people taking part in the funeral march.”
“We hold the (Palestinian) Authority’s leadership in Ramallah and their security services in Lebanon fully responsible for the crime,” a Hamas statement to Reuters said, specifically accusing the PA’s National Security Forces of perpetrating the attack.
Heavy gunfire can be heard in video recorded at the funeral, which was reportedly attended by several senior Hamas officials.
Denying involvement in the shooting, Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon Ashraf Dabour told Reuters, “This is a rejected and a condemned action… Investigation committees will reveal who stood behind it,” Dabour said. “We have made contacts with Hamas leaders and demanded they wait for the investigation results.”
The funeral was being held for Hamza Sheen, who died in the Friday explosion near the port city of Tyre.
According to Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency (NNA), the blast occurred at “an ammunition depot” hidden beneath “the Abi Bin Kaab Mosque.” An unspecified number of people were killed, 10 suffered from smoke inhalation and 2 firefighters belonging to the Shi’ite Amal Movement’s ‘Civil Defense and Scouts of Al-Rissala Al-Islamiya’ were injured, reported the NNA. The agency added that the Lebanese Armed Forced cordoned off the area to prevent residents from leaving the camp, so that an investigation of the Hamas weapons storage site can be conducted. It was also stressed that the arsenal was not affiliated with the powerful armed Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group.
Hamas confirmed that Sheen was a member, and said he was “martyred in a mission of jihad” Islamic Holy War. The Islamist terror group also claimed the the incident was an accident that resulted from an electrical problem in a warehouse where oxygen, gas cylinders, disinfectant and other items needed to treat coronavirus patients had been stored.
The Hamas statement declined to specify the number of casualties, and acknowledged only some property damage at the site.
Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported last week that the Gaza-based Hamas terror faction had opened several bases in Lebanon in recent years to be used to launch future attacks on the Jewish State.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians and their descendants who claim refugee-status in Israeli live in. about 12 camps in Lebanon. Lebanese authorities generally don’t enter the sites, which are effectively controlled by a number of armed Palestinian factions, including the Hamas and Fatah groups.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA enables Palestinians to pass “refugee” status down through the generations, unlike any other group in the world. In 1949, the UN estimated 726,000 Arabs had resided in pre-State Israel. The number of “Palestinian refugees” ballooned to 5 million in 2014, and there are now 5.7 million Palestinians in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza who are entitled to UNRWA benefits.