SIDON, Lebanon, July 12 (UPI) -- The killing of three Lebanese soldiers in an ambush near a Palestinian refugee camp in south Lebanon has raised concerns about security control over such shantytowns.
Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said Friday that the killings were "a cowardly and suspicious act by some groups which target the civil peace process" in Lebanon.
Lahoud said such acts at the end only benefit the Israeli enemy and ordered the security services to arrest the assailants and "the parties protecting them."
The three Lebanese Army intelligence personnel were shot dead late Thursday in an ambush near the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Helweh on the outskirts of the port city of Sidon in southern Lebanon.
The soldiers were on their way to arrest Badie Hamade, a wanted Lebanese known as Abu Obeida who heads a Palestinian gang, when the shooting took place.
Hamade killed two soldiers on the spot before he was injured himself and shoot dead the third soldier. He managed to escape and reportedly took refuge in the nearby Ein el-Helweh camp.
The Lebanese Army cordoned off the camp and blocked its entrances while contacts were underway with Palestinian groups in control of the camp were underway to locate and hand over Hamade who is wanted in car thefts and other offenses.
The Army rounded up several suspects outside the camp, including Hamade's fiancee and her brother who reportedly assisted him in several of his sabotage and bombing operations.
A committee in charge of security inside Ein el-Helweh and grouping representatives of several Palestinian factions which denounced the Thursday killings promised to locate Hamade and hand him over to the Lebanese Army.
Security sources told UPI that 100 Palestinian guerrillas and dozens others from the mainstream Fatah movement were on alert to arrest Hamade who reportedly was hiding at one of the camp's fundamentalist groups.
If Hamade does not willingly surrender, the Palestinian guerrillas were ready to arrest him by force.
The Palestinian guerrillas are in charge of security inside Ein el-Helweh while the Lebanese Army only controls the outskirts of the camp.
The Army had always refrained from entering the camp, which houses more than 65,000 refugees and several Palestinian factions, to avoid a possible military confrontation and bloodshed.
The crowded Ein el-Helweh was feared to have become a safe refuge for some wanted men and criminals.
Three years ago, the killers of four Lebanese judged who were shot dead in their court room in Sidon reportedly sought refuge in the camp and remained at large. They were believed to belong to a Palestinian fundamentalist group, Isbat al-Ansar, which was included in the U.S. list of terrorist groups which assets were ordered to be frozen following the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington.
The Thursday's killings could be a good opportunity for the Fatah movement of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to clamp down on the camp fundamentalist groups and tighten its control over Ein el-Helweh.