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Car bombing in southern Lebanon kills local Palestinian official

Car bombing in Sidon, Lebanon

Lebanese firefighters and Red Cross members work at the site of explosion in southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon, on April 12, 2016. 

(EPA)

A car bombing Tuesday in Lebanon’s southern port city of Sidon killed an official with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction in what some observers suspect was an attempt to exacerbate tensions within the refugee community.

Fathi Zeidan, secretary of the Palestinian refugee camp Mieh Mieh, was killed when a bomb planted under the seat of his car exploded, according to the official Lebanese National News Agency. Local media outlets reported four other casualties from the blast.

Mieh Mieh, located approximately 24 miles south of Beirut, the Lebanese capital, is one of two major camps in Sidon and is home to some 5,250 registered refugees, according to figures provided by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. It is dwarfed by the nearby Ein al-Hillweh camp, which houses more than 54,000 refugees.

Both Ein al-Hillweh and Mieh Mieh are controlled and policed by a number of Palestinian factions. Lebanese authorities are not allowed into the camps but maintain a presence through checkpoints on the roads connecting them and around them.

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The bomb, which weighed about one kilogram, killed Zeidan instantly, according to a statement released by the Lebanese army. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast.

Fatah officials, in statements to local media, said the explosion occurred after Zeidan had departed to Ein al-Hillweh from a meeting of the Palestinian factions held in Mieh Mieh to discuss security arrangements in the camps.

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“Zeidan was demanding in the meeting he attended today to strengthen the security procedures in Mieh Mieh camp,” said Maj. Gen. Munir Maqdah, head of a Palestinian force tasked with maintaining security in the Palestinian camps in Sidon, in an interview with Lebanese broadcaster LBC.

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The killing of Zeidan, who was nicknamed “Zorro” and was described as a calming presence in Mieh Mieh, comes before the backdrop of increased tensions in the Palestinian camp, which are thought by many Lebanese to be hideouts of many people wanted by the authorities.

The crisis in neighboring Syria, where rival Palestinian factions have joined the fighting between the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the opposition seeking to end his rule, has contributed to the problems.

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State media said a committee composed of officials from the Palestinian refugee camps had been formed to coordinate investigations undertaken by the Lebanese authorities.

Bulos is a special correspondent.

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