The Daily Star
August 15, 2012 - 12:00am

The Lebanese Army is relocating in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp to give residents space, and the government has reiterated its commitment to releasing detainees from recent clashes and removing the camps’ restrictive permit system.

The head of the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee Khaldoun al-Sharif announced the state-backed steps Monday night at a committee iftar held in the camp, according to a statement from the organization.

Sharif said he had received assurances from Prime Minister Najib Mikati that the government backed a slate of measures to improve relations and quality of life in the camp.

The latest step is for the Lebanese Army to move out of two areas in the camp residents have long wanted to use again. The mostly empty lots known as “A-0” and “Samed” have been a point of dispute for years, as residents returning to the camp have wanted to use them for community events.

The Army has agreed to move its operations to two nearby areas instead.

“The works will be launched immediately to make the transfer with the active collaboration of the Lebanese Army leadership, which was keen on meeting your rightful appeals and expectations in exchange for your continuous cooperation,” Sharif told the crowd of camp officials at the iftar.

He also said the government was committed to releasing detainees arrested in recent clashes with the Army, ending the restrictive permit system in the camp and relaunching a suspended Norwegian aid project.

Fighting between the Army and camp residents killed three in June, and a number of residents were detained. Tension between camp residents and the Army has simmered for years, partly due to the Army’s often tight security presence around the camp.

A restrictive permit system to enter and exit the camp exacerbated an already tense relationship between camp residents and the Army.

The steps to alleviate those problems are part of an agreement of common understanding between Mikati and the representatives of the Palestinian factions in the country, Sharif said. The decisions had already been announced about a month ago.

Nahr al-Bared was almost totally destroyed in 2007 after the Lebanese Army waged a battle to remove the armed Islamist group Fatah al-Islam, which had set up their headquarters in the camp.

Five months of fighting between the two sides claimed the lives of around 500 people.

A project to rebuild the camp was launched by the United Nations shortly after the fighting ended, but reconstruction has dragged on for years and is only partially funded by external donors.

Sharif was recently appointed head of the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee, which was created in 2005 to improve relations between the two communities.

Sharif said he believed there were many areas that Lebanese and Palestinians agreed on and more progress could be made between them.

Monday’s iftar was part of a series of gatherings the committee had set up at Palestinian refugee camps around the country during the holy month of Ramadan. Sharif said he would be heading to camps in the south next.


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