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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 July 2007, 08:42 GMT 09:42 UK
Lebanon army shells refugee camp
Lebanese soldiers take up positions near Nahr al-Bared (6 July 2007)
Lebanese troops have been taking position outside the camp
The Lebanese army has resumed shelling militants inside a Palestinian refugee camp near the northern city of Tripoli, a day after its last residents fled.

Witnesses said troops had been firing several shells a minute since dawn at Islamist militants from the Fatah al-Islam group inside Nahr al-Bared.

The army denied the bombardment was the start of a final assault on the camp, saying it was an "ongoing operation".

It came as two soldiers were shot dead by snipers on the edge of the camp.

At least 88 soldiers and 60 militants have died in seven weeks of fighting.

About 40 civilians have also been killed in Lebanon's worst internal conflict since the end of the civil war in 1990.

'Final end'

Clouds of black smoke billowed from the camp after Lebanese artillery began bombarding Fatah al-Islam positions in the south of Nahr al-Bared shortly before dawn on Wednesday.

Troops were also locked in gun battles with militants in the southern and eastern parts of the camp.


The two soldiers were shot dead after being ambushed on the edge of the camp.

The clashes prompted speculation that troops were preparing for a final assault, but the army denied the reports.

"The ongoing military operations are still in the context of tightening the noose on the gunmen to force them to surrender," it said in a statement.

The bombardment resumed on the first anniversary of the war between Israel and the Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah, in which more than 1,000 civilians were killed.

In a speech commemorating the anniversary, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora called for the army to "put a final end" to the conflict at Nahr al-Bared.

"A gang that has no connection with the Palestinian cause or the values of Islam managed to kidnap the camp, take its people hostage, and at the same time attack the army, the security forces, the citizens, and the Lebanese state," he said on Wednesday.

His warning came after more than 150 of the camp's remaining residents, mostly Palestinian militants, left the camp.

However, relief workers said they had been unable to evacuate around 45 children and 20 women who were family members of the Fatah al-Islam fighters.

Much of Nahr al-Bared, which was previously home to some 30,000 people, has been destroyed in the fighting.

The bombed-out shell of the refugee camp

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