Guns boom after 40-minute ceasefire in Lebanon


Beirut : A ceasefire called by Fatah al-Islam, a group suspected of links to the Al Qaeda terror network and battling the Lebanese army in northern Lebanon for three days, lasted only 40 minutes Tuesday, sources said.

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"The ceasefire lasted 40 minutes only," a Palestinian source told DPA. "The sound of machine gunfire returned to the area," the source said.

According to Palestinian sources, Palestinian refugees were gathering around a UN convoy that entered the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, the scene of the clashes, when the firing took place Tuesday.

Several civilians were wounded in the incident, sources said. Lebanese army sources, meanwhile, said troops had not fired any shots towards the camp.

"The ceasefire went into effect 2.30 p.m. to allow the evacuation of the wounded and to allow humanitarian supplies to enter the camp," Fatah al-Islam spokesman Abu Selim had told DPA by phone earlier Tuesday.

"This is not a truce… this is a ceasefire," he said, while the Lebanese army indicated it would not shoot if not shot at.

According to a witness at the scene, a convoy of humanitarian, supplies which had been waiting since the early morning, entered the Nahr al-Bared shortly after the ceasefire went into effect.

The clashes in the Palestinian camp had by Tuesday sparked protests among Palestinians in other camps in northern Lebanon, including Bedawi camp about 10 km away.

The Palestinian mainstream Fatah movement said Palestinian refugees across Lebanon could rise up if the army continued shelling Nahr al-Bared camp in the north.

At least 77 people have been killed in clashes between the army and the extremist group in northern Lebanon in what has been described as the deadliest internal violence since the 1975-90 civil war.

Among those killed were 30 Lebanese soldiers and 20 militants from the Fatah al-Islam militia, according to Lebanese army and Palestinian sources.

Seventeen Palestinian civilians have also been killed, according to Sultan Abul Aynain, the head of the Palestinian mainstream Fatah movement.

One Lebanese civilian was killed in the crossfire when Lebanese troops attacked a building in Tripoli where Fatah al-Islam militants were holed up, police and hospital sources have said.

On Tuesday, an army source said a suicide bomber, believed to belong to Fatah al-Islam, blew himself up as police stormed an apartment where he was hiding in the northern port city of Tripoli.

A protestor at Bedawi camp on the northern outskirts of Tripoli shouted: "We will not let our Palestinian brothers be slaughtered!"

"If the random shelling does not stop… there will be uprisings in all the camps in Lebanon," Aynain warned at the Bedawi camp.

"This is just a small token of what might happen in all the Palestinian camps in Lebanon," he said.

Many demonstrators shouted they were "ready to be martyrs for Nahr al-Bared" as they burnt tyres in protest.

Abul Aynain called for an immediate ceasefire to help resolve the "problem" of Fatah al-Islam, a Sunni Islamist group believed to be inspired by Al Qaeda. The group includes other Arab nationalities besides Palestinians.

In southern Lebanon, in the largest Palestinian refugee camp, Ain al-Hilweh, near the southern port city of Sidon, protesters burnt tyres and blocked roads on Tuesday.

Some 367,000 Palestinian refugees live in often miserable conditions in 12 camps across Lebanon.