The Lebanese army has resumed shelling the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in north Lebanon, saying the targeted posts are held by Fatah al-Islam fighters. Shelling started at 6am on Saturday after a calm night, marking almost three weeks since fighting broke out.
Short of food, water and electricity, the camp has been abandoned by most of its 40,000 residents. At least 115 people, including 47 soldiers and 38 fighters, have been killed since the fighting began, making it Lebanon’s worst internal violence since the civil war from 1975-1990.
The latest mediation efforts by Lebanese parties to try to convince the fighters to surrender have had no success. But Lebanese sources said the Islamic Action Front, which includes Sunni politicians and clerics, and a grouping of Palestinian clerics, would continue efforts to find a solution.
Saturday’s intensive shelling is aimed at tightening the grip around posts and hideouts of Fatah al-Islam. The shelling now targets the centre of Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, whereas it previously target northeast areas of the camp, army sources said.
The Lebanese army has also cut off the international road linking Tripoli city to the northern borders with Syria. The fighting began on May 20 when Fatah al-Islam fighters attacked army units deployed around Nahr al-Bared after one of their hideouts in a nearby city was stormed.
Lebanon is already struggling with a seven-month-old political crisis, and there are fears that fighting could spread. The past week has seen deadly clashes at another refugee camp and five bomb blasts in civilian areas in and near Beirut.
Fouad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, told the French television station TV5 on Friday that the army was holding back to preserve civilian lives.
“That’s why this battle is taking longer, and it’s worth pointing out that these terrorists are well-equipped and well-trained and persistent.” Authorities have charged 32 detained members of Fatah al-Islam with terrorism, charges that carry the death penalty.