Lebanon fighting spreads

Clashes break out at a second refugee camp amid the ongoing siege of Nahr al-Bared.

    Lebanese army helicopters have joined in
    the assault on Fatah al-Islam [AFP]

    Three soldiers and two Palestinian civilians were wounded at the camp, medics said.
    The army brought in reinforcements and deployed armoured vehicles mounted with heavy machine guns, and calm was restored for a few hours.
    But fighting flared again as night fell on Sunday, Hanna reported. 
    Nahr al-Bared clashes


    On Sunday, Lebanese military helicopters fired rockets and machinegun barrages at targets on the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp's coastal side.
    The government of Fouad Siniora, the prime minister, has said it aims to eliminate Fatah al-Islam once and for all.
    Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Tripoli, said Fatah al-Islam confirmed that Abu Riyadh, one of its leaders, was killed by an army sniper on Saturday.
    She said there had been conflicting reports in previous days that other senior leaders had been killed, reports that were denied by the group.
    She the Lebanese army had managed to reach a few hundred metres inside the refugee camp and clear out pockets of fighters.

    Machinegun fire could be heard outside the camp on Sunday as the army continued its siege backed by helicopter gunships and tanks.


    Security sources said that two Lebanese army soldiers had been killed overnight, bringing the number of troops killed since Friday to eight.


    More than 16 people, fighters and civilians, have died in the camp over the weekend.
    Conflicting figures
    Fatah al-Islam said it had lost three fighters.
    Lebanon's official news agency said four fighters were killed in Nahr al-Bared on Sunday, including the group's deputy leader named as Shehab Kaddur.

    Exclusive footage

    Watch John Cookson's report on a family of a soldier killed in the fighting at Nahr al-Bared

    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".
    Lebanon's An-Nahar daily reported that arrested members of Fatah al-Islam had confessed the group was planning a September 11-style attack.
    "Fatah al-Islam planned to attack a large hotel in the capital using four suicide truck bombs at the same time as launching suicide attacks on embassies in east and west Beirut," the paper said, without giving its sources.
    Abu Salim Taha, Fatah al-Islam spokesman, told Al Jazeera: "We are inflicting great damage on the part of the Lebanese army.
    "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."
    Unifil denial


    Abu Salim Taha also claimed that troops from Unifil, a multi-national peacekeeping force whose remit is largely concerned with monitoring southern Lebanon, had taken part in the shelling of Nahr al-Bared camp.


    A deputy spokesperson for Unifil denied the allegations.


    Yapmina Bouzaine said: "These claims are utterly unfounded. Unifil's maritime task force have no part whatsoever in the developments in and around Nahr al-Bared camp."


    She said the maritime task force was acting within its original mandate, assisting the Lebanese authorities in preventing the illegal flow of arms via the sea.


    Elderly and disabled


    Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr quoted humanitarian organisations as saying on Sunday that the majority of refugees remaining in the camp were elderly or disabled.

    The army deployed armoured vehicles
    around Ain al-Hilweh camp [AFP]

    She said: "Approximately 150 people are in wheelchairs ... Since the [latest army] offensive began on Friday, no relief supplies have made their way in to the camp."

    The army has urged refugees still trapped inside the camp to "be patient and to expel those criminals from among you".

    Siniora said on Saturday that the camp's population had fallen from more than 31,000 to fewer than 3,000, including the fighters, after civilians fled after the outbreak of fighting on May 20.
    He accused Fatah al-Islam of preventing the remaining civilians from leaving the camp in an apparent bid to use them as human shields.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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