Fighting continues at Lebanon camp

12.jpgLebanese troops have continued to battle an armed Palestinian group at a refugee camp in northern Lebanon for the second straight day, security sources have said.


On Monday, sources said the military had tightened their grip around the Nahr al-Bared camp and were shelling positions held by the Fatah al-Islam group at the entrances of the camp.


Sources also said the Lebanese army was holding back from entering the coastal camp, which is home to some 40,000 Palestinian refugees, in line with a 1969 Arab agreement banning the Lebanese army from entering any of the country’s 12 refugee centres.


Witnesses said Fatah al-Islam fighters were firing back on army positions.


At least eight civilians were killed and 20 wounded on Monday in Lebanese army shelling, Palestinian sources inside the camp said.


Abu Salim, a spokesman for Fatah al-Islam, issued an ultimatum to the Lebanese military on Monday, warning that the group would escalate the battle and take it “outside” the refugee camp if the Lebanese military did not back down.


About 50 people died in fighting on Sunday between the Lebanese military and Fatah al-Islam fighters.


Police said the area had witnessed a relatively calm night after Sunday’s day-long gun battles.


Abu Hisham Laila, an official of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine , speaking to Al Jazeera from inside the camp, called the Lebanese bombing of the camp “indiscriminate”.


“All residents have stayed at home, taking shelter in lower floors,” he said.


“We want ambulances to be allowed into the refugee camp to transfer the civilian casualties. We also want fire brigades to enter the camp and put off the fire in many buildings.”


Zeina Khodor, reporting for Al Jazeera from close to the Nahr al-Bared camp , said: “The camp is virtually sealed off. Paletsintians inside the camp are telling us there are scores of civilian wounded.”


Links to al-Qaeda


Fighting broke out between the army and Fatah al-Islam on Sunday morning after security forces raided homes in the Lebanese town of Tripoli to arrest suspects of a bank robbery.


At least three members of Fatah al-Islam, which has been accused of having links to al-Qaeda and Syrian intelligence, were killed after the army stormed a building in Tripoli in which they were hiding.


Fighting at the refugee camp, where Fatah al-Islam has its headquarters, came in response to the raid on the building in Tripoli by the Lebanese military.


Fouad Siniora, Lebanon’s prime minister, accused the group of trying to destabilise the country and called on the people of Lebanon to “join ranks behind the army and Lebanese security forces”.


Fatah al-Islam’s spokesman told Al Jazeera that the group was acting in self-defence had been made a “scapegoat”.


Fatah al-Islam has denied links to al-Qaeda and charges that it carried out bus bombings that left three people dead in a Christian area north of Beirut in February.


The group accused the government of trying to pave the way for an offensive against Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.


Beirut blast


Also on Sunday, an explosion near a shopping centre in Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, killed a 63-year-old woman and injured 10 people.


The blast, across the street from the ABC shopping centre, occurred shortly before midnight (21:00 GMT) in Ashrafieh, an upscale and largely Christian neighbourhood, leaving a crater 1.5m deep and 3m wide in the road.


The blast appeared to have come from explosives placed inside a parked vehicle.

Check Also

The EU and Azerbaijan: Time to Talk Tough

By launching a military offensive in Nagorny Karabakh, President Aliyev forfeited the trust of Europeans. …