Fresh clashes in Lebanon


Summary

In the north the intermittent thud of shells and the rattle of machine-gun fire reverberated around the Nahr al-Bared camp as the deadly standoff between troops and militants entered its third week with both sides vowing to fight to the end.

VIDEO: Violence erupts

Backed by tanks and helicopters, the military tightened its siege around the squalid camp where Fatah al-Islam militiamen are still holding out in the face of superior firepower.

"We are inflicting great damage on the part of the Lebanese army," Fatah al-Islam spokesman Abu Salim Taha told Al-Jazeera television.

"We are… in total control of the battlefield… We have the upper hand in fighting at the moment. We will never surrender… we will fight till the last drop of blood."

Fighting also erupted in the Ein al-Helweh camp in southern Lebanon, after a militant from another Islamist group Jund al-Sham (Soldiers of Damascus) threw a hand grenade at an army checkpoint.

Three soldiers and two Palestinian civilians were wounded at the camp, the largest of the 12 in Lebanon that house about half of the country's estimated 400,000 Palestinian refugees.

Siniora: gangs must surrender

Prime Minister Fuad Siniora on Saturday warned Fatah al-Islam to surrender or be wiped out after two days of the fiercest gun-battles since the fighting erupted in northern Lebanon on May 20.

The standoff has continued despite efforts by a group of Palestinian clerics to mediate a negotiated solution.

On Sunday, army big guns fired a volley of around 20 shells at the east of the camp, setting fire to several buildings.

One officer told news agency AFP that fighters had been firing on the motorway leading north from the nearby city of Tripoli, effectively cutting it off.

"Our artillery has destroyed terrorist positions on the rooftops which we then raked with heavy machine-gun fire, allowing us to reopen the main road from Tripoli to the Syrian border," he said.

Four Islamist militants were killed on Sunday, Lebanon's official news agency reported, including the group's deputy leader named as Shehab Kaddur.

However, a man who Al-Jazeera said was Kaddur denied he had been killed and boasted that his fighters "have arms that would shock the enemy."

Another two soldiers were killed in battles overnight, bringing to nine the number killed in the recent bout of fighting and the overall death toll to around 100, including 44 soldiers.

It is the bloodiest internal fighting since the 1975-1990 civil war and has added to tensions in a country already battling an acute political crisis.

"This is a terrorist gang," Mr Siniora told Al-Arabiya television on Saturday.
"They have to surrender themselves and their arms."

He said the army was carrying out "surgical operations" to eradicate the gunmen, but that if the Islamists give up "they will face a fair trial."

It is not known whether the army is planning a ground assault on the camp. By longstanding convention, it does not enter Lebanon's 12 Palestinian refugee camps, leaving security inside to armed militant groups.

Fatah al-Islam, a tiny band of well-armed Sunni Muslim, is believed to have about 250 fighters, according to Siniora.

Tanks could be seen on streets outside the camp, along with armoured personnel carriers loaded with soldiers and red-bereted members of the special forces.

Mr Siniora said the camp's population had fallen from more than 31,000 to fewer than 3,000, with thousands taking flight from the fighting and an increasingly desperate humanitarian situation.


In the north the intermittent thud of shells and the rattle of machine-gun fire reverberated around the Nahr al-Bared camp as the deadly standoff between troops and militants entered its third week with both sides vowing to fight to the end.

VIDEO: Violence erupts

Backed by tanks and helicopters, the military tightened its siege around the squalid camp where Fatah al-Islam militiamen are still holding out in the face of superior firepower.

"We are inflicting great damage on the part of the Lebanese army," Fatah al-Islam spokesman Abu Salim Taha told Al-Jazeera television.

"We are… in total control of the battlefield… We have the upper hand in fighting at the moment. We will never surrender… we will fight till the last drop of blood."

Fighting also erupted in the Ein al-Helweh camp in southern Lebanon, after a militant from another Islamist group Jund al-Sham (Soldiers of Damascus) threw a hand grenade at an army checkpoint.

Three soldiers and two Palestinian civilians were wounded at the camp, the largest of the 12 in Lebanon that house about half of the country's estimated 400,000 Palestinian refugees.

Siniora: gangs must surrender

Prime Minister Fuad Siniora on Saturday warned Fatah al-Islam to surrender or be wiped out after two days of the fiercest gun-battles since the fighting erupted in northern Lebanon on May 20.

The standoff has continued despite efforts by a group of Palestinian clerics to mediate a negotiated solution.

On Sunday, army big guns fired a volley of around 20 shells at the east of the camp, setting fire to several buildings.

One officer told news agency AFP that fighters had been firing on the motorway leading north from the nearby city of Tripoli, effectively cutting it off.

"Our artillery has destroyed terrorist positions on the rooftops which we then raked with heavy machine-gun fire, allowing us to reopen the main road from Tripoli to the Syrian border," he said.

Four Islamist militants were killed on Sunday, Lebanon's official news agency reported, including the group's deputy leader named as Shehab Kaddur.

However, a man who Al-Jazeera said was Kaddur denied he had been killed and boasted that his fighters "have arms that would shock the enemy."

Another two soldiers were killed in battles overnight, bringing to nine the number killed in the recent bout of fighting and the overall death toll to around 100, including 44 soldiers.

It is the bloodiest internal fighting since the 1975-1990 civil war and has added to tensions in a country already battling an acute political crisis.

"This is a terrorist gang," Mr Siniora told Al-Arabiya television on Saturday.
"They have to surrender themselves and their arms."

He said the army was carrying out "surgical operations" to eradicate the gunmen, but that if the Islamists give up "they will face a fair trial."

It is not known whether the army is planning a ground assault on the camp. By longstanding convention, it does not enter Lebanon's 12 Palestinian refugee camps, leaving security inside to armed militant groups.

Fatah al-Islam, a tiny band of well-armed Sunni Muslim, is believed to have about 250 fighters, according to Siniora.

Tanks could be seen on streets outside the camp, along with armoured personnel carriers loaded with soldiers and red-bereted members of the special forces.

Mr Siniora said the camp's population had fallen from more than 31,000 to fewer than 3,000, with thousands taking flight from the fighting and an increasingly desperate humanitarian situation.