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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 May 2007, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Fighting resumes at Lebanon camp
Palestinian refugees fleeing the violence
Many thousands used a lull in the fighting to make their escape
There has been renewed fighting between Lebanese army troops and Islamist militants holed up in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon since Sunday.

Many of the camp's residents have fled, but thousands are still trapped inside.

A handful of militants tried to escape the camp by sea, but their inflatable boats were sunk by the Lebanese navy.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said the government would not "surrender to terrorism" and would work to eradicate it.

"We will put an end to the terrorist phenomenon without hesitation," Mr Siniora said. "We will not surrender to the terrorists."

They will not scare us, just like the assassinations did not scare us
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora

Overnight, at least 16 people were injured by a bomb blast in the town of Aley, a mountain resort close to the capital Beirut.

It is the third such bomb attack in the last four days.

Fatah al-Islam, the group fighting the Lebanese army in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, has denied responsibility for the blasts, but many believe that the two events are linked.

Mr Siniora insisted that the government would remain resolute. "The explosive attacks will not scare us. They will not scare us, just like the assassinations did not scare us," he said, referring to a string of political murders, including that of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri two years ago.

FATAH AL-ISLAM
Split from Palestinian group Fatah al-Intifada in late 2006
Believed to have 150-200 armed men, based in Nahr al-Bared camp
Denies al-Qaeda links but says it endorses its ideas
Has links with Syrian intelligence, Lebanon says
Leader is Shaker al-Abssi

At least 50 soldiers and militants have been killed in the fighting at Nahr al-Bared refugee camp. The civilian death toll is not known.

The BBC's Jon Leyne, just outside the camp, says that Thursday's gunfire exchanges are sporadic and that there is no sign of the heavy shelling seen before.

However, government warnings of harsh action against the militants has prompted fears that the Lebanese army could begin an all-out assault on the camp at any time, raising concerns for civilians still inside.

A large number of those who escaped during a lull in fighting between the army and members of Fatah al-Islam - which is believed to have links to al-Qaeda - have been sheltering in another Palestinian refugee camp nearby.

The Red Cross has organised an aid convoy from Syria for those displaced, which it hopes will arrive in the area in a few hours' time.

Escape attempt

The militants have refused to surrender or disarm.

But, according to the Lebanese authorities, a small number tried to escape from the camp by sea, in two inflatable boats.

map

They were thwarted when a Lebanese navy warship opened fire, sinking the boat and killing all on board, the Lebanese military said.

The fighting at the camp is the bloodiest internal conflict in Lebanon since the civil war ended 17 years ago.

It began on Sunday after security forces raided a building in Tripoli to arrest suspects in a bank robbery. Fatah al-Islam militants then attacked army posts at the entrances to the camp.

A large force of Lebanese troops hit back, bombarding the camp and storming a building on the outskirts of Tripoli.

Fatah al-Islam is a radical Palestinian splinter group alleged to have links with al-Qaeda. Lebanese officials also believe it is backed by Syria.

Other Palestinian factions have distanced themselves from the group, which emerged last year.


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