[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Sunday, 3 June 2007, 22:52 GMT 23:52 UK
Fighting at second Lebanon camp
Smoke billowing from Ain al-Hilweh camp
Fighting at Ain al-Hilweh began after an army post was attacked
Fighting has broken out between soldiers and Islamist militants at a second Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, security officials say.

The violence in the Ain al-Hilweh camp, near the southern city of Sidon, is said to involve Jund al-Sham militants.

Two people - a soldier and a civilian - were injured when suspected militants fired a grenade at an army checkpoint.

It is not clear if the violence is linked to the fighting at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in the north.

Army troops at the Ain al-Hilweh camp responded to the rocket propelled grenade attack with gunfire, witnesses said.

The mayor of Sidon, Abdul Rahman Bizri, told the BBC that the fighting had involved just a small number of extremists and that it had now been contained.

"We were able, with the help of the Palestinian organisations and with the help of larger Islamic groups in the camp, to subdue their activity and contain any action from getting even larger," he said.

map

The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Beirut says the Jund al-Sham militants are similar to those fighting Lebanese army troops in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp.

There the Lebanese army is shelling militant positions deep within the besieged camp to try to force the militants to surrender.

Fighting between the militants and the army began at the camp near Tripoli in northern Lebanon two weeks ago.

More than 100 civilians, soldiers and militants are reported to have died since.

The army says militants from the Fatah al-Islam group have been cleared from the edges of the Palestinian camp during heavy fighting since Friday. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora described the group as a "terrorist gang", and said there would be no negotiation.

A militant spokesman said they would fight to "the last drop of blood".

"We will not surrender," vowed Fatah al-Islam spokesman Abu Salim Taha.

"The Nahr al-Bared camp will not fall despite the destructive shelling, and the army will not be able to enter," he told the AFP news agency.

Civilians in peril

However, there were suggestions that the army was advancing and had forced militants into the southern part of the camp, after fierce battles on the northern and eastern edges, our correspondent says.

Palestinian refugee child at Chatilla camp
Thousands of civilians have been forced to flee the fighting
But the reports could not be confirmed as the media were being kept at bay, she adds.

The army has said its forces have not entered the camp itself. There is a longstanding convention that the army does not enter Lebanon's 12 Palestinian refugee camps, leaving security inside to militant groups.

There is great concern for civilians in the camp, who have no access to power or medical help, our correspondent says.

Tens of thousands are thought to have fled the camp since fighting broke out on 20 May, but thousands reportedly remain.

Aid agencies have called for a ceasefire to allow more civilians to leave.

But the government and army are in no mood to end the siege now, our correspondent says.

The violence is the worst internal fighting Lebanon has seen since the end of its civil war 17 years ago.

Lebanon is home to more than 350,000 Palestinian refugees, many of whom fled or were forced to leave their homes when Israel was created in 1948.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Aftermath of Lebanon attacks in the north



SEE ALSO
Lebanon charges 20 over fighting
30 May 07 |  Middle East
Lebanon army 'hit by militants'
28 May 07 |  Middle East
Analysis: Lebanon's new flashpoint
23 May 07 |  Middle East
The Lebanese crisis explained
22 May 07 |  Middle East
Profile: Fatah al-Islam
21 May 07 |  Middle East



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific