A Lebanese soldier takes cover at the entrance of the Ain Al Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp, during clashes between Fatah movement and militants in the camp in the southern coastal city of Sidon on July 30, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

BEIRUT: Clashes on Sunday in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp near the southern port city of Sidon left five people dead and seven others wounded, Palestinian officials said.

The officials, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said the fighting broke out after an unknown gunman tried to assassinate militant Mahmoud Khalil, killing a companion of his instead.

Later, militants assassinated a Palestinian military general from the Fatah group and three escorts, another Palestinian official told the AP.

Factions used assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers in the overcrowded Ein Al Hilwah camp as ambulances zoomed through its narrow streets to take the wounded to the hospital. Several residents fled the crossfire.

Palestinian factions in the camp for years have cracked down on militant Islamist groups and fugitives seeking shelter in the camp’s overcrowded neighbourhoods.

In 2017, Palestinian factions engaged in almost a week of fierce clashes with a militant organisation affiliated with the extremist Daesh (Islamic State) group.

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said two children were among those wounded.

The clashes stopped for several hours in the morning, though state media said there was still sporadic sniper fire. But they began again after the killing of the Palestinian general and his escorts.

The Lebanese Army in a statement said a mortar shell landed in a military barracks outside the camp wounding one soldier, whose condition is stable.

Ein Al Hilweh is notorious for its lawlessness and violence is not uncommon. The UN says it is home to some 55,000 people.

It was established in 1948 to host Palestinians displaced by Israeli forces during the establishment of Israel.