The tranquil night of the Burj el-Shemali refugee camp in the suburbs of the ancient city of Tyre in the south of Lebanon was shattered when a loud explosion rocked the compound recently, unleashing a gale of frenzy across the country.
The explosion was the result of a fire that broke out near a local mosque which later spread to reach an arms depot belonging to Hamas. It contained an assortment of weapons and ammunition.
Hamas was quick to cordon off the blast site and prevent the Lebanese security agencies and other Palestinian factions in the camp from investigating the reasons behind the explosion. It merely brushed aside the incident, claiming that an electric fire reached a storage facility of oxygen canisters being stored for the needs of people with COVID-19.
The mysterious explosion injured tens of people and killed Hamza Chahine, a senior member of the group. It’s believed he was responsible for the recruitment for the local intelligence branch of Hamas.
The following day the funeral of Chahine turned into a bloodbath as a firefight broke out between Hamas and Fateh ending in the death of three members of the terrorist organization.
These incidents raise the point that disarming weapons found in Palestinian refugee camps is essential. It’s an issue which the public long believed to have already been resolved.
Naturally this thorny matter, plays a part in Lebanon’s crises, reaffirming the nation’s inability to claim sovereignty over all of its territories. This includes the existing Palestinian refugee camps which are nothing more than an extension of the real elephant in the room; Hezbollah and Iranian hegemony.
The 192,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are not armed and do not pose any existential threat to the country’s national security. But, some of the terrorist’s armed factions in the camps are part of the Iranian axis. Tehran is the real menace, both to the Lebanese and to their fellow Palestinians.
Hamas’s brand of political Islam coupled with its orbiting of the radical Iranian revolution has made it part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ tools in the region both inside Palestine itself and in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria.
The blast which happened in the South of Lebanon is an indicator of how the Israeli Iranian standoff has gone beyond simply targeting Iranian militias in Syria and Iraq. Israel’s ongoing campaign to limit Tehran’s threat to its security now includes Hamas which poses another battle front if not properly contained.
Hamas’s preposterous explanation of the blast is the standard textbook response of Iran’s militias around the region. The false narratives are used to justify their inability to retaliate against Israeli military strikes and reveals how Hamas is not investing in liberating Palestine. Rather, it shows that the terrorists are fully committed to Iran’s expansionist project, regardless if it serves Palestine or not.
On his last visit to Lebanon in 2017, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was clear when he said that the Palestinian did not need weapons in Lebanon, and that the Palestinian camps fell under the jurisdiction of the Lebanese state.
Abbas’s statements indicate the serious schism between the mainstream Palestinian faction Fateh, and the more radical assortment of Islamic groups Hamas leads home and abroad.
Consequently, the Burj el-Shemali blast and the events that followed are merely a manifestation of the destructive factionalism within the Palestinian political scene. Hamas supported by Hezbollah and Iran have worked hard to sideline Fateh, which no longer commands the respect or the ability to control any of the camps.
For Hezbollah the Palestinian camps provide venues to weaponize and advance its own interests when needed. It also puts more pressure on both the Lebanese state and the international community to make more concessions in the ongoing nuclear talks in Vienna.
Hamas’s weapons should be dealt with as an extension of Hezbollah and Iran’s occupation of Lebanon, and several other countries in the region, including Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
The explosion in the Burj el-Shemali refugee camp is unfortunately merely a reminder that Lebanon’s current political and economic crisis can only be tackled by confronting Iran and its band of brothers.