“Ninety percent of the Palestinians have military experience from their time in Lebanon,” Abu Eyad said. “But if the Palestinians fight each other, it is because the PFLP has an army in Damascus.”
During Lebanon’s civil war, Palestinians took up arms to defend themselves against all sides. Lebanon’s camp districts, still poverty stricken and sometimes violent, are a legacy of the conflict, which some Lebanese blame on the influx of Palestinians from what is now Israel, creating lingering resentment and hostility.
The period of 1984-89, when Palestinian factions battled not just the invading Israelis and local Lebanese militias but also fought among themselves, is sometimes referred to as “The Camp War.”
Those who remain complain that Palestinians continue to suffer discrimination, particularly at the hands of the Shiite Muslim-dominated government, which they say uses anti-terrorism laws to harass the mostly Sunni Muslim Palestinian population.
Syria’s Palestinians are not the only minority trapped by the fighting that has taken on broad sectarian outlines, pitting the country’s Sunni majority against the Allawite Shiite minority that has ruled for decades.
Syrian Kurds, who have watched Kurdish militia battle rebels and the Syrian government for control of parts of Syria’s Kurdish northeast, say they are in the process of forming similar armed groups. Syria’s Druze population, mostly centered around the southern city of Suweida, appears also to have been drawn into the conflict more fully in recent weeks, as attacks there against the Syrian army and security forces have reportedly grown in frequency.