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Wednesday, 4 September, 2002, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
Violence erupts in Lebanese camp
Lebanese tanks outside the camp
Lebanese tanks are surrounding the camp
At least two Palestinians and a Lebanese soldier have been killed during a gunfight in al-Jalil refugee camp in Lebanon.

Many more were wounded in the fighting, and Lebanese tanks are still surrounding the camp, near the eastern town of Baalbek.

The clashes erupted when the soldiers raided offices of an organisation linked to the Palestinian guerrilla leader, Abu Nidal, who was found dead in Baghdad last month.

The Lebanese army rarely enters Palestinian refugee camps, which are controlled by various armed factions and considered beyond government authority.

Arms cache

The violence broke out when troops entered the camp in search of a wanted man, a security officer said.

The army entered the abandoned offices of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, and removed a large cache of guns and grenades, as well as important documents.

Witnesses said the confrontation began when residents protested the army had entered the camp without permission.

"People were surprised to see a Lebanese patrol enter the camp. It is the first time that it happens in more than 30 years," a witness told the French news agency AFP.

During the gunfight that followed, a Lebanese army soldier and two Palestinian fighters were killed. Another soldier and up to 10 Palestinians were wounded.

Lebanese Interior Minister Elias Murr demanded the camp residents hand over the militants who fired on the troops.

Abu Nidal
Abu Nidal was found dead in Baghdad last month
"Unless they are handed over, the measures taken will be escalated," he warned.

"The camps are on state land and the state must apply the law and enter the camps whenever it wants," he told local media.

Al-Jalil camp is the one of the smallest of the 12 Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, with a population of about 6,600, according to the United Nations.

A total of 350,000 Palestinians are thought to live in Lebanese camps.

While al-Jalil is usually calm, other camps are notorious for their violence.

Last month, Palestinians and Lebanese militants fought with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades in the largest refugee camp, Ein el-Hilweh, outside the southern port of Sidon.

Nidal's legacy

Abu Nidal, who founded the Fatah Revolutionary Council, was discovered dead from a gunshot to the head in Baghdad.

The Iraqi government said he committed suicide rather than face trial for communicating with a foreign country, but his supporters accused Iraqi intelligence of murdering him.

Abu Nidal led one of the most ruthless of Palestinian militant factions, which killed at least 275 people in a campaign of terror that spanned several continents.

Among its most notorious attacks were assaults on the El Al airline ticket counters at Rome and Vienna airports that killed 18 people and wounded 120 others in 1985.

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