Lebanon army shells fighters

Fighting enters third day as troops battle Muslim group in Palestinian refugee camp.

    Policemen evacuate residents from the site of the explosion in west Beirut on Monday [Reuters]

    Plea for calm
    Dark smoke rose from the camp as shells crashed among the densely packed breeze-block buildings.
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    "From outside it's very easy to condemn the Lebanese army and government for what they are doing against Fatah-al-Islam"

    Rabih, Mansourieh El Metn, Lebanon

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    Medical sources inside the camp appealed for fighting to stop, saying there were dead and wounded lying on the streets.
    Sheikh Salim Lababidi, mufti of Palestinians in Lebanon and the diaspora, appealed through Al Jazeera for the world to open its eyes to what is going on in the Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon.
    He said: "People inside the refugee camp have contacted me, saying that more than 100 civilians have been killed and injured in the camp.
    "We have all denounced the killing of army soldiers, but no one has denounced the killing of dozens of these civilian Palestinians. Why are they being killed and shelled?"
    Sultan Aboul Aynan, the Lebanon chief of the mainstream Fatah from which Fatah al-Islam splintered off, called for a halt to the army's bombardment, warning that Palestinian civilians were paying the price for the actions of "a gang of outlaws".
    Bomb explosion
    On Monday, a bomb exploded in a west Beirut shopping area even as the Lebanese army signalled it was ready for a truce with Fatah al-Islam.
    The blast struck the mainly Sunni Muslim district of Verdun, wounding at least 10 people, including two young boys, security sources and witnesses said.
    Verdun is home to Ghazi al-Aridi, the information minister, who at the time was giving a press briefing at the prime minister's office on an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the Nahr al-Bared clashes.

    A 10kg bomb exploded in a car park in the
    Sunni district of Verdun in Beirut [EPA]

    Police said the 10kg bomb was placed under a car, setting ablaze several vehicles and damaging buildings.
    It was the second such attack to hit Beirut in 24 hours. The first bomb blast, which took place in a Christian district on Sunday night, killed a 63-year-old woman and wounded 10 people.
    A faxed statement in the name of Fatah al-Islam claimed responsibility for the blasts and threatened more. But Abu Salim Taha, a spokesman for the group, denied it had anything to do with the bombings.
    Taha accused the Lebanese army of violating a ceasefire agreement which he said had been reached on Monday.
    He said: "The army started firing dozens and hundreds of shells at the refugee camp only five minutes after the ceasefire was announced."
    Taha also denied that some of the group's fighters were found wearing explosive belts.
    Government offer
    A Lebanese government source said on Monday that the army was "ready to stop firing if the other side does the same".
    The offer followed attempts by other Palestinian factions to broker a truce.
    Three soldiers were killed in an attack on an army post outside the Nahr al-Bared camp on Monday.
    For their part, Lebanese troops bombarded positions held by the fighters with tanks and heavy artillery earlier in the day.
    But there were complaints that the shelling was affecting whole communities of Palestinians in the refugee camp in north Lebanon.
    Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reported on Monday that 30,000 Palestinians living in Nahr al-Bared were running out of food, water and medicines as the refugee camp remained virtually under siege.
    Syrian backing?
    Some Lebanese intelligence officials have blamed Syria for backing Fatah al-Islam, saying it wanted to destabilise the Beirut government.
    Shaker al-Abssi, the group's Palestinian leader, slipped into Lebanon last year after serving three years in a Syrian jail.
    But Bashar Jaafari, Syria's ambassador to the UN, has denied any ties between Damascus and Fatah al-Islam.
    And Sana, the official news agency, has quoted Walid Muallem, the Syrian foreign minister, as saying: "We renounce Fatah al-Islam. Members of the group are wanted by the Syrian security services.
    "This group serves neither the Palestinian cause nor the  interests of the Palestinian people."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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