Lebanese Army Battles Refugee Camp

May 21, 2007

Lebanese battle tanks let loose more ammo Monday, battering a
Palestinian refugee camp in a deadly fight against Islamic militants.

Fighters from Fatah Islam, a group with suspected ties to Al Qaeda,
answered with volleys of machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

Clashes kicked off on Sunday after police raided suspected militant
hideouts searching for men wanted in a recent bank robbery.

It has escalated into the fiercest fighting the Tripoli region has seen
since Lebanon's bloody civil war ended almost two decades ago with
dozens dead.

The siege is centered at the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, home to some
40,000 Palestinians, now caught in the crossfire of militants who are held up there.

Militants, some say, aim to send trained fighters into Iraq.

Lebanese officials worry the assault on the camp could trigger a wider
war and a backlash of sympathy across the Arab world, especially now, as Israel strikes Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

A spokesman for Fatah Islam warned that if the Lebanese Army doesn't back off, militants will take the battle beyond Tripoli, raising the fear, once again, that one small spark could ignite an entire region.

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