Palestinian officials in Lebanon consider the Hamas movement’s decision to establish a new unit under the name of the Vanguards of the Al-Aqsa Flood, as an effort to increase its popularity in the Palestinian camps and enhance its role at the expense of the Fatah movement, which has long been seen as the most prominent Palestinian faction in the country.
Palestinian sources close to Fatah believe that Hamas wants to exploit the war in Gaza to increase its popularity in the Palestinian refugee camps, in light of the great sympathy it enjoys after the Oct. 7.
They noted that the primary goal of the Vanguards of the Al-Aqsa Flood was to attract young people and mobilize them intellectually and then militarily to form the nucleus of a military force for Hamas outside Palestine.
Early last week, Hamas called on “young and heroic men” to join the “Vanguards of the resistance.” The movement’s sources later explained that the project was linked to Lebanon and “does not aim exclusively to gather more fighters, but rather to include more individuals in Hamas, who are active in more than one segment.”
Ghassan Ayoub, a member of the Palestinian Joint Action Committee in Lebanon, told Asharq Al-Awsat that there was “a rush on the part of the movement to search for how to invest in the aggression against Gaza.”
For his part, the director of the Development Center for Strategic Studies and Human Development, Palestinian Researcher Hisham Dibsi, pointed to “field data in the camps indicating that [Hamas] wants to invest in this militia formation, by attracting the largest possible number of members, who are dazzled by the acts of violence, fighting, and victories that Hamas claims to have achieved.”
According to the Lebanese Central Bureau of Statistics and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, there are 230,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon living in 12 camps and 156 Palestinian communities in the governorates of Lebanon.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), in a census conducted about 11 years ago, confirmed the presence of more than 483,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.