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Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
Handover ends Lebanon stand-off
Lebanese troops check people during a street patrol near the Ain al-Helweh refugee camp
Lebanon has virtually sealed off the Palestinian refugee camp
A Palestinian militant group based in Lebanon has handed over to the Lebanese army a man suspected of killing three soldiers, ending a tense stand-off at the country's largest Palestinian refugee camp.

A Palestinian carries a rocket-propelled grenade while on patrol in Ain al-Helweh
The camp is notorious for its lawlessness
The man, Badieh Hamadeh, a 25-year-old Lebanese Shiite, was turned over to the army outside the Ain al-Helweh refugee camp by a representative of the Palestinian group, Osbat al-Ansar.

Mr Hamadeh - whom Lebanon accuses of shooting and killing the three soldiers as they tried to arrest him on Thursday - fled to the refugee camp suffering from a bullet wound.

He is also believed to be behind a series of bomb attacks against the Lebanese army and police positions in the area.

Mr Hamadeh's handover comes several hours after Lebanon tightened a cordon around the camp which houses about 75,000 Palestinians on the outskirts of the southern city of Sidon.

'Harsh reminder'

Eyewitnesses said Mr Hamadeh was taken from the camp in an army jeep.

A spokesman for Osbat al-Ansar - which is on a US list of terrorist organisations - told the Associated Press news agency that the decision to hand the suspect over was agreed after a meeting which lasted several hours.

The spokesman said that it was taken to "spare the camp any bloodshed".

Earlier, Lebanese troops - backed by armoured carriers - searched people and cars entering and leaving Ain al-Helweh, which is particularly known for its lawlessness.

Several fugitives wanted by Lebanon are thought to be hiding there. One of them is Abu Mahjan, the leader of Osbat al-Ansar.

Lebanese security officers guard the gates but do not enter the camp, which Fatah and other Palestinian groups jointly control.

There are 12 Palestinian refugee camps which are scattered all over Lebanon, and they have been off-bounds to Lebanese troops for decades.

See also:

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