Lebanon fighting enters third day

 

Lebanese soldiers secure a building on the outskirts of Nahr al-Bared on 21 May 2007

Smoke coming from Palestinian refugee camp

Bomb blast in Beirut

Fighting has resumed between the Lebanese army and Islamist militants taking refuge in a Palestinian refugee camp, despite talk of a ceasefire.Troops began shelling the Nahr al-Bared camp, near the northern city of Tripoli, at dawn. The militants responded with gun and mortar fire.

Humanitarian groups have called for a truce to let casualties out of the camp and allow humanitarian supplies in.

During the night a bomb exploded in Beirut, injuring at least six people.

The second attack in less than two days targeted a shopping area in the mainly Sunni Muslim area of Verdun.

On Sunday a 63-year-old woman was killed by a blast in a Christian district of Beirut.

‘Last drop of blood’

After a few hours’ lull at the start of the night, fighting resumed for a third day between Lebanese troops and members of the Fatah al-Islam group taking refuge in the camp.

FATAH AL-ISLAM

Split from Palestinian group Fatah al-Intifada in late 2006

Believed to have 150-200 armed men, based in Nahr al-Bared camp

Denies al-Qaeda links but says it endorses its ideas

Has links with Syrian intelligence, Lebanon says

Leader is Shaker al-Abssi

In pictures: Lebanon fighting

Profile: Fatah al-Islam

Media see Syrian hand

More than 50 people have been killed in the clashes, which began on Sunday.

Doctors in the camp, which houses some 40,000 Palestinian refugees, have called for a ceasefire because of the dead and wounded lying on the streets.

In addition to the need for medical relief within the camp, electricity supplies have been cut and there is limited water.

A planned two-hour ceasefire on Monday ended after just a few minutes, with clashes resuming before United Nations and Red Cross vehicles could enter the camp.

The Lebanese army has vowed to stop shelling if militants stop firing.

The group, which is suspected of having links with al-Qaeda, has in turn threatened to widen its campaign unless the bombardment ends.

“Our fighters are ready to fight until the last drop of blood,” a spokesman for Fatah al-Islam told AFP news agency.

Internal conflict

Overnight, US President George W Bush said the Islamists needed to be stopped.

“Extremists that are trying to topple that young democracy need to be reined in,” he said.

map

Eyewitness: Tripoli fighting

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The Lebanese minister for economy and trade, Sami Haddad, told the BBC his government suspected Syria of masterminding the violence.

“These people are trying to destabilise a democratically elected government,” he said.

“We are faced with international terrorism that has attacked Europe, the Middle East and Arab countries before.”

Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, has denied his country had any link to the group, and said some of them had been in jail in Syria for their support for al-Qaeda.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, will meet Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora in Beirut later on Tuesday to discuss the fighting – the bloodiest internal conflict in Lebanon since the civil war ended 17 years ago.

The clashes erupted when security forces tried to arrest suspects in a bank robbery. Militants from Fatah al-Islam, a radical Palestinian splinter group, then attacked army posts at the entrances to the camp.

Lebanon is home to more than 350,000 Palestinian refugees, many of whom fled or left their homes when Israel was created in 1948.

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