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Iran Is also Infiltrating Palestinian Refugee Camps in Lebanon

While the discovery of Hizbullah tunnels has exposed one aspect of Iran’s intervention in Lebanon, there is another aspect that also must be noted. Iran has infiltrated into the refugee camps in Lebanon and the new Wahabi-Sunni alliance created during the entire war in Syria. In Lebanon, the primary manifestation of this alliance is the Usbat al-Ansar, or Brotherhood of the Supporters of the Prophet, which corresponds to ISIS in Syria, and its bases are located in the Palestinian refugee camps.1

The most prominent expression of its existence was the participation of the group’s spokesman Sheikh Abu Sharif Aql at this year’s Islamic Unity Conference held in Tehran. This is the first time the Usbat al-Ansar group has participated in such a conference.

Sheikh Abu Sharif Aql

Sheikh Abu Sharif Aql (left) at the Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran

At the same time, meetings took place between the leaders of the group in Lebanon and Lebanese security chiefs. Afterward, the group stated that it would not interfere in activities in Lebanon and it considers the official Lebanese forces to be a legitimate body that is also protecting the Palestinians.

In early December 2018, Abu Sharif Aql, speaking in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in a message undoubtedly addressed to the Lebanese Army, publicly disassociated Usbat al-Ansar from two ISIS-affiliated jihadis who led attacks against the Lebanese Army in the last year. “O Jihadi brother, Shadi Mawlawi,” Aql said, “I speak for the children, orphans, and elderly in the camp, to whom you have caused suffering. There are 100,000 Palestinians in this camp who will not be able to provide you with any help. They will not support you if you are here.”2

The importance of these statements is that they are intended to signify the end of clashes in the refugee camps between various groups, as well as Usbat al-Ansar’s attacks on the Lebanese security forces. Will this happen? Time will tell.

Nahr el-Bared refugee camp

Lebanon has a bitter collective memory of the 2007 destruction of the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in a fierce battle between Lebanese Security Forces and a dug-in Jihadi group affiliated with al Qaeda.3

In its most recent messages, the group has only cited Hamas and Islamic Jihad as legitimate forces within the refugee camps, but it ignored Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah. The Hamas branch in Lebanon is considered to be connected with Iran and closely associated with Hizbullah.

Usbat al-Ansar explained that the connection with Iran is important “for liberating Jerusalem, and not to forsake the refugee problem,” as per the Trump plan, and it has already established several committees for developing the connection with Iran.

This connection not only strikes a blow against Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah, but also against the faction of Subhi al-Tufayli, one of the founders of Hizbullah, who claimed that the connection with Iran would lead to Sunnis taking revenge on the Shiites in Lebanon for the war in Syria, which was not in the Lebanese Shiites’ interests.

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About Pinhas Inbari

Pinhas Inbari is a veteran Arab affairs correspondent who formerly reported for Israel Radio and Al Hamishmar newspaper, and currently serves as an analyst for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
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