Lebanon army resumes camp assault

Helicopters and tanks launch raids on Fatah al-Islam after relatives are evacuated.

    The evacuated families are said to have been the
    last remaining civilians in the camp [AFP]

    The officer said fighters in the camp had no choice other than to surrender.
     
    He said the army was "embarrassed before by the presence of civilians among them".
     
    He did not specify when a ground assault would begin on Fatah al-Islam positions inside the camp.
     
    General Michel Suleiman, commander of the Lebanese army, said that final military operations against the remaining fighters in the camp will take no more than 10 days, the As-Safir daily quoted him as saying.
     
    Evacuees
     
    Sheikh Mohammed al-Hajj of the Palestinian Scholars' Association, who had mediated the evacuation of the families, said about 25-30 of Friday's evacuees had gone to neighbouring Syria.
     
    He said the wife and child of Shaker Youssef al-Absi, Fatah al-Islam's leader, are among those who have left Lebanon.

    The remaining women and children went to two other Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon - Badawi near the northern city of Tripoli and Ain al-Hilwa near the southern port city of Sidon, al-Haj said.
     
    Two of the children evacuated received hospital treatment after leaving the camp and three women had been injured, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.
     
    Al-Hajj said his organisation was attempting to evacuate a number of injured Fatah al-Islam fighters from the camp.
     
    Camp off-limits
     
    The army has come under pressure to bring an end to its protracted siege of the refugee camp, which has entered its fourth month.
     

    Up to 70 Fatah al-Islam fighters are thought
    to still be in Nahr al-Bared [AFP]

    Small numbers of troops have entered the outskirts of Nahr al-Bared but the heart of the camp has remained off-limits.
     

    Zeina Khodr, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Lebanon, said: "Some sources are telling us [the evacuation] could be a test. Fatah al-Islam would like to see how the Lebanese army deals with the families to see whether there could be a possibility for surrender."

     

    At least 200 people, including 142 soldiers, have been killed in the fighting, Lebanon's deadliest internal unrest since the 1975-1990 civil war.

     

    Fatah al-Islam's fighters have refused demands to surrender and vowed to fight to the death.
     
    Envoy's exit
     
    In a separate development, the ambassador of Saudi Arabia, a leading supporter of the Fouad Siniora government, has left Beirut in the face of attack warnings, a senior Lebanese official said on Saturday.
     
    Abdel Aziz Khoja left on August 17 after the embassy formally notified the Lebanese foreign ministry of a "threat of attack against the ambassador's residence, the embassy or other Saudi interests in Lebanon", the official said.
     
    The Saudi embassy declined all comment but Khoja told the Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat daily that "there were threats against Saudi embassy and against my person".
     
    The ambassador had already been threatened four or five times in the past, the daily said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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