An influential Islamist figure is conducting mediation efforts to repair a rupture in ties between Hezbollah and its largest Palestinian ally, Ansar Allah, according to sources familiar with the issue.
Sheikh Maher Hammoud, the imam of the Quds Mosque in Saida, is undertaking the effort after the Palestinian group Tuesday announced its “military, security and political disengagement” from its long-time ally.
Hammoud, according to the sources, has held a meeting with the leader of Ansar Allah, Jamal Suleiman, in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp.
The sources said Hammoud delivered a strong rebuke to Ansar Allah for its public declaration that its alliance with Hezbollah had ended, advising the group to reassess its move and work on quietly solving points of divergence with their former ally.
The sources said Hammoud’s meeting did not generate any breakthroughs, but nevertheless managed to open a channel of communication between the two groups, as Hezbollah tasked a local official, known as Hajj Issam, with visiting Suleiman.
The Ansar Allah leader communicated his criticisms of how Hezbollah dealt with his group, the sources said. The sources maintained that a financial dispute wasn’t the reason behind Ansar Allah’s announcement, but was rather the result of the core problem.
They said Hezbollah received information that Ansar Allah had made efforts to open a channel of communication with a Gulf state supporting the Syrian uprising.
A Palestinian faction enjoying good ties with the Gulf country was trying to establish the channel of communication, they added.
Hezbollah reacted by downsizing its financial support to Ansar Allah, before cutting off its aid entirely.
Well-informed sources also told The Daily Star that Suleiman was told by Lebanese security officials that weapons permits for him and a number of Ansar Allah officials were no longer valid. The sources said that a number of Ansar Allah officials have now vacated their residences outside Ain al-Hilweh, relocating inside the camp.
Separately, Col. Mahmoud Oweid, the senior military official in Ansar Allah, rejected media speculation that his group was responsible for launching rockets at Israel, or targeting UNIFIL peacekeeping troops.
Oweid told The Daily Star that his organization denounced attacks on UNIFIL, saying that on “patriotic and religious” consideration, his group was bound to protect the force.
He also denied launching rockets at Israel but said that Ansar Allah supported “anyone who throws even a rock at the Zionist entity.”
Ansar Allah, Hezbollah’s largest Palestinian ally, had its genesis in the 1980s, in a conflict between Amal and Hezbollah. While Fatah supported Amal, Suleiman, a Fatah officer, defected and backed Hezbollah.
Earlier this year, Suleiman’s son Khaled left Ain al-Hilweh to fight with Syrian rebels, but was later persuaded to return, as the move embarrassed Hezbollah, due to its ties to Damascus.