Electric cables and Islamist flags hang over a street dominated by Islamists factions in the refugee camp of Ain Al-Helweh, near the southern Lebanese city of Sidon, on March 16, 2015. AFP PHOTO / JOSEPH EID
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Lebanon's Ain al-Hilweh camp has long provided a stable, if destitute, bolthole for Palestinian refugees, some of whom have lived within its walls since fleeing their homes more than six decades ago.But the war in neighboring Syria has transformed parts of the southern camp into a safe haven for jihadis traveling to fight there, creating districts where even Palestinian security forces fear to tread and raising tensions among residents. Abu Hajer, a Palestinian from Ain al-Hilweh who fights with Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front in Syria, uses the camp as a rear-base in between fighting.Syria's conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests but spiraled into an armed conflict that has killed more than 215,000 people.More than 61,000 Palestinian refugees live in Ain al-Hilweh, including 6,000 who recently fled the war in Syria.The rise of jihadis in Ain al-Hilweh has worried camp authorities, who are stepping up cooperation with the army.
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