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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lebanese crushing democratic resistance

We do not understand why world media and the UN do no uphold the legitimate right of resistance of Fatah al Islam.
Lebanese Army resumes battle against Fatah al-Islam
Defense minister issues stark warning: 'their fate is arrest, and if they resist ... death'
By Hani M. Bathish
Daily Star staff
Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lebanese Army resumes battle against Fatah al-Islam

BEIRUT: Renewed fighting broke out between the Lebanese Army and Islamic militants at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp late Wednesday, witnesses said, ending a day-long cease-fire during which thousands of civilians fled the camp. The Fatah al-Islam militant group had vowed earlier in the day to carry on the fight, while Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr issued an ultimatum Wednesday afternoon telling the militants to surrender or face "military action."

"The army will not negotiate with a group of terrorists and criminals," Murr said in an interview with Al-Arabiyya television channel. "Their fate is arrest, and if they resist the army, death. There are two choices: The first one, which we prefer, is that they surrender ... the other, which we don't like ... is military action."

Three days of fierce fighting between Fatah al-Islam militants and the Lebanese Army have left 32 soldiers and dozens of civilians dead. Conflicting reports put the number of militants dead at between 22 and 60, making the clashes north of Tripoli the deadliest internal conflict the country has seen since the 1975-90 Civil War.

Army sources said the body of Abu Midian, the second-in-command of Fatah al-Islam, was recovered Wednesday night. The body was picked up by Lebanese Civil Defense near the Abdeh army checkpoint at the north end of the camp.

The Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation reported Wednesday that camp notables and religious figures had met with Shaker Absi, the Palestinian leader of Fatah al-Islam, to extend an offer to end the fighting. The detail of the offer were unknown, as was Absi's response.

A Central News Agency (CNA) report Wednesday said Fatah al-Islam's headquarters inside the camp had been completely destroyed and that Absi was wounded in the shoulder.

The report could not be independently confirmed.

A militant going by the name Abu Hureira who identified himself as Fatah al-Islam's deputy leader told The Associated Press inside the camp Wednesday that "if [soldiers] advance toward the camp, we will open fire."

"They will not enter except over our dead bodies," he was quoted as saying.

Fatah al-Islam militants temporarily took over a mosque in the center of the camp at around 3 p.m. Wednesday, confiscating medicine left by aid workers.

A judiciary source said late Wednesday that the army had taken 10 Fatah al-Islam militants into custody and that they were being questioned.

Security forces collected the bodies of 15 militants in North Lebanon Wednesday, the source said on condition of anonymity. The deceased were carrying fake identity documents indicating Lebanese, Palestinian, Yemeni and Bangladeshi nationalities, the source said.

An army source told The Daily Star Wednesday that soldiers had not entered the camp.

Soldiers recovered the bodies of militants from areas bordering the camp, not from inside, he said.

The CNA reported on Wednesday that 17 bodies with fake identity papers had been recovered from inside the camp.
Two bodies of militants taken from around Nahr al-Bared had been identified, the judiciary source said.

Fatah al-Islam militants were seen patrolling the Nahr al-Bared camp as thousands of residents continued to flee.

The source confirmed media reports that an attempt by militants to flee the camp by boat last night had been thwarted.

"Two small boats were spotted, and both were hit and sunk," he said. "There were no survivors as they were too far out at sea."

The army source denied any coordination with the main Fatah faction to uproot Fatah al-Islam from Nahr al-Bared.

"This is an internal matter they have to resolve themselves," he said, adding the army did not need any assistance.

The commander of Fatah in Lebanon, Brigadier Sultan Abu al-Aynayn, also denied Wednesday any coordination, saying an agreement had to be reached among all Palestinian factions and the Lebanese authorities over the best way to uproot Fatah al-Islam from the camp.

He described the group as a "time bomb."

In a statement issued Wednesday, the army said attacks against army positions around the Nahr al-Bared camp Sunday were an attempt to destabilize the country and assail the standing of the government and its institutions.

"The army's firm and rapid response ... has thwarted the plans of the terrorists," the statement said.

The army would follow through on "the guarantee to preserve the lives of our Palestinian brothers both inside and outside the camps," it added.

Abu Imad Rifai, the Lebanon representative of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, warned the army on Wednesday against adopting a military solution in haste.

"There is a conviction on the part of many [Palestinians] that a military solution cannot lead to results or end the battle once and for all. There should be another mechanism [for a solution]," Rifai said in an interview with Hizbullah's Al-Manar television. - With agencies


Kouchner heads for lebanon first

PARIS: New French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner will travel to Lebanon for a two-day working visit on Thursday, his office said. It will be the first time that Kouchner, an appointee of President Nicolas Sarkozy, has traveled outside Europe in his new job.
Kouchner will hold talks with "the main political leaders of the country," including Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Speaker Nabih Berri, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.
"The aim of his visit is to reaffirm France's solidarity with Lebanon and with its people in this critical period, and to reaffirm the importance we attach to the independence, sovereignty and stability of this country," the statement said. - Agencies

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