Arafat's power play threatens life of aide

SULTAN ABOUL Aynain is not the sort of man you would expect to receive a death sentence. For years, Yasser Arafat's man in Lebanon - a 47-year-old with bushy eyebrows, large, glowering eyes and seven children - has lived in the tiny Palestinian refugee camp of Rashidiyeh scarcely 10 miles from the Israeli border, his power as the local PLO Fatah commander reduced to three square miles of slums and cement cabins. The last time I saw him, he had so few Palestinian supporters he used Kurds as bodyguards.

But all this changed last spring when Mr Arafat, from his rump mini-state in Gaza, decided to recover his influence as PLO leader in Lebanon and reopen all his guerrilla offices in the great refugee camp of Ein el-Helweh outside Sidon, pay his former officers again and send his armed fighters marching through the camp.

Now comes the death sentence - in absentia - against Mr Aboul Aynain from the Lebanese military tribunal for "forming armed bands with the intention of committing crimes against civilians and attacking the Lebanese state".

What is unclear is whether the "crimes" are supposed to have been committed during the 1975-1990 civil war when more than 150,000 were killed, or in the past nine years when Palestinians have been accused (without much proof) of killings in the Sidon area.

Already, PLO officials in Gaza are accusing the Leb-anese of a "political" sentence against their representative in southern Lebanon, prompted by Mr Arafat's decision to re-exert his power in the Palestinian camps there.

Until six months ago, the 60,000 population of Ein el- Helweh camp was ruled by anti-Arafat Palestinians, most of whom were supported by Syria and who regarded the 1993 Oslo agreement as a betrayal of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The majority of the families come from that part of Palestine which became Israel in 1948.

Refugees will be discussed in the Palestinian-Israeli final status talks. Israel has already refused to contemplate the return of 1948 refugees or their descendants - numbering perhaps three million; and since the Oslo accords, Mr Arafat had studiously ignored the 350,000 Palestinians who fought for him at such cost in the Lebanese war.

But now, anxious to show he has a "card" in Lebanon - because control of the Palestinians there will give him greater influence in the final negotiations with Israel - the PLO chairman sent Mr Aboul Aynain to Ein el-Helweh to reorganise his guerrilla force. A week ago, armed Fatah staged a rally in Ein el-Helweh for the first time in a decade.

Which might have been Aboul Aynain's undoing. For the Lebanese wish to control the Palestinians in Lebanon. And although under the 1969 Cairo agreement, the Lebanese allowed them to carry arms in their camps, the Beirut government has insisted several times this year that Palestinian refugees will not be allowed to stay in Lebanon.

And Syria, which has 22,000 troops in Lebanon and whose " sisterly" accords with Beirut give her dominance over Lebanon's government, may have its own uses for the Palestinian refugee guerrilla fighters.

If Israel withdraws from southern Lebanon without retreating from Golan, then those Palestinian guerrillas in Ein el-Helweh could be as valuable a "card" for President Assad of Syria as for Mr Arafat in Gaza.

Mr Aboul Aynain is sitting tight in the little concrete office he runs in the Rashidiyeh camp. "We regret that Fatah should now be regarded as an "armed band" when we have always respected the sovereignty of Lebanon and its laws and refuse to compromise its security," he says. "I don't think I'm going to hand myself over."

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam