Fighting resumes in Lebanon

134.jpgFighting between the Lebanese military and Muslim fighters at a Palestinian refugee camp has continued into a fourth day, with renewed gunfire reported in the evening. The fighting has left scores dead, destroyed houses and triggered a flood of refugees from the camp. 

 

Civilians continued to flee from the Nahr al-Bared camp near Tripoli on Saturday, while the US flew further military aid into Beirut for use by the Lebanese army.

 

Airport officials said the aid arrived on Saturday, a day after the leader of Hezbollah said Lebanon risked fighting a war “on behalf of the Americans”.

 

Battles resumed late on Saturday night, with the Lebanese army on the camp’s perimeter exchanging fire with Fatah al-Islam fighters inside. Witnesses reported machinegun fire, rocket fire and artillery bursts. No troop movements were reported.

 

The UN has called for the protection of thousands of civilians trapped by the Lebanese army’s siege of the camp.

 

Fatah al-Islam’s leader Shaker al-Abssi said: “We wish to die. We wish to die for the sake of Allah. If the leader is sitting at the forefront, he will set an example for his followers.”

 

He said Fatah al-Islam would fight “the Jews, the Americans and their loyalists”, an apparent reference to Lebanon’s government.

 

On Friday, Hassan Nasrallah, secretary-general of Hezbollah, said in a televised speech that the country risked getting dragged into America’s war against al-Qaeda. He said: “The problem in the north can be solved politically and through the judiciary.”

 

Nasrallah said accepting US help would draw more fighters into the country and potentially destabilise it. The UN has called for the protection of thousands of civilians trapped by the Lebanese army’s siege of the camp.

 

An estimated 10,000 civilians remain in the embattled camp with only sporadic humanitarian support during very brief ceasefire periods. Children living in Nahr al-Bared have been through unspeakable trauma.

 

About half of Nahr el-Bared’s 31,000 residents fled the camp during an earlier truce, seeking shelter in the nearby Badawi camp.

 

At least 20 civilians and 30 soldiers were killed in the fighting earlier this week. The Lebanese military says 60 Fatah al-Islam fighters were killed, though the group put the toll at 10.

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