Two die as Lebanon clashes spread

149.jpgTwo Lebanese soldiers have been killed, as fighting with militants at Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp continued into a second day. The violence in the Ain al-Hilweh camp, near the southern city of Sidon, is said to involve Jund al-Sham militants.

Meanwhile, clashes with the Fatah al-Islam group at the northern Nahr al-Bared camp went on during the night.

It is not clear whether the battles are linked, but the two groups have family ties and ideological similarities.

They both share an al-Qaeda-type creed, and reports say one of the leaders of Jund al-Sham is the brother-in-law of a military commander of Fatah al-Islam.

The BBC’s Kim Ghattas in Beirut says questions will now be asked about how the Lebanese state deals with militants on its territory.

‘No negotiation’

In addition to the two dead, at least five troops were reported wounded in the Ain al-Hilweh fighting. There has been no word on militant casualties.

The Lebanese army has sent more armoured vehicles to the edge of the camp.

In Nahr al-Bared, the army is shelling militant positions deep within the besieged camp to try to force the militants to surrender.

Fighting between militants and the army began at the camp, near Tripoli in northern Lebanon, two weeks ago.

More than 100 civilians, soldiers and militants are reported to have died since.

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora described the group as a “terrorist gang” and said there would be no negotiations.

A militant spokesman said they would fight to “the last drop of blood”.

The army has said it has not entered the Nahr al-Bared camp.

There is a longstanding convention that the army does not enter Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps, leaving security inside to militant groups.

There is great concern for civilians in the camp, who have no access to power or medical help, our correspondent says.

Tens of thousands are thought to have fled the camp since fighting broke out on 20 May, but thousands reportedly remain.

Aid agencies have called for a ceasefire to allow more civilians to leave.

But the government and army are in no mood to end the siege now, our correspondent says.

The violence is the worst internal fighting Lebanon has seen since the end of its civil war 17 years ago.

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

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