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Last Updated: Friday, 29 June 2007, 18:37 GMT 19:37 UK
Lebanon army 'shoots protesters'
Protesters carry an injured man in northern Lebanon
The protest began at the Baddawi refugee camp
Soldiers have fired on Palestinian protesters in Lebanon, killing at least three people and injuring about 40, witnesses and medics say.

The Palestinians were trying to break through a checkpoint to get back to their homes in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon.

The camp has been the scene of weeks of clashes between the army and Islamists.

Fighting at the camp and associated unrest has left 200 people dead since 20 May.

This makes it Lebanon's worst internal violence since the 1975-90 civil war.

Tension

Witnesses said soldiers fired in the air above the heads of at least 100 demonstrators.

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When the crowd did not disperse, the troops fired automatic rifles at the protesters.

One witness said the demonstrators did not provoke the soldiers.

The army issued a statement saying its troops had to respond after the protesters blocked the main road with burning tyres and attacked soldiers with sticks and sharp objects.

An unnamed army spokesman was earlier quoted by the AFP as saying that soldiers only fired warning shots.

It is the first time since the fighting started that trouble has erupted between the Lebanese army and the Palestinian refugees, the BBC's Kim Ghattas in Beirut says.

Weeks of clashes between the army and Fatah al-Islam militants at the camp have also caused tensions between Palestinians and Lebanese, our correspondent says.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement, deploring the fact that the army did not have the necessary non-lethal means to disperse the crowd.

It also called for an independent investigation into the incident.

Stand-off continues

Some 20,000 Palestinian refugees had fled the Nahr al-Bared camp since the fighting began.

Most of them have been sheltered since then in the overcrowded Baddawi camp, about 5km (three miles) away from Nahr al-Bared.

Although the stand-off between the army and the militants is continuing, the refugees have been demanding to be allowed to return home.

Lebanon has 12 refugee camps housing more than 350,000 Palestinians. They are people who fled or were forced to leave their homes when Israel was created in 1948, or their descendants.


SEE ALSO
Troops die in Lebanon camp clash
23 Jun 07 |  Middle East
Gun battles flare at Lebanon camp
11 Jun 07 |  Middle East
Analysis: Lebanon's new flashpoint
23 May 07 |  Middle East
Profile: Fatah al-Islam
21 May 07 |  Middle East
Timeline: Lebanon
04 Jun 07 |  Country profiles



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