SIDON, Lebanon (AP) — Hamas officials buried three of their members Tuesday who were killed by gunfire in a tense Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon days earlier. The militant group accused members of a rival faction of the deadly shooting.
Ayman Shanaa, an official with the militant group, told mourners that Fatah militia members were behind the shootings, which he called a “heinous and cowardly crime.”
There are tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants in Lebanon, most living in refugee camps. Fatah is the political faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas rules the Gaza Strip.
Fatah called the accusations “arbitrary and misleading.” In a statement, the group accused Hamas of inciting against its members in Lebanon before investigation into the violence is concluded.
The deadly violence took place at a Hamas-organized funeral Sunday in the Burj Shamali camp. Shanaa called it “a premeditated crime” that aims to undermine security and stability in the refugee camps in Lebanon.
The funeral was held in the southern city of Sidon and attended by several thousand people, many of whom raised the green Hamas flag.
Shanaa called for handing the perpetrators “known to all” to the Lebanese security agencies.
Lebanese security forces don’t operate inside about 12 Palestinian refugee camps scattered around the Mediterranean country, where security is in the hands of Palestinian factions who often compete for clout.
The violence started after a series of massive explosions in Burj Shamali late Friday, which Lebanese officials said ignited in an ammunition depot.
Hamas, which is powerful in the camp, denied it was a weapons depot and said the explosions started with an electrical short-circuit in a storage area for oxygen bottles.
One Hamas member was killed in the explosions. During his funeral on Sunday, gunfire erupted leaving three people dead and several injured.
The source of the shooting was not clear at the time and Palestinian officials had different accounts of what happened. Shanaa’s comments Tuesday were the most direct public accusation against Fatah.
Tensions between Palestinian factions in Lebanon often turn into violence but are usually quickly contained within the overcrowded camps.
As a result of the tension, Fatah said it was ending all communications with Hamas at all levels in Lebanon.
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