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Last Updated: Friday, 24 August 2007, 19:42 GMT 20:42 UK
Truce as women flee Lebanon camp
The Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared in north Lebanon
Three months of bombardment have left Nahr al-Bared in ruins
The families of Islamist militants, besieged by Lebanese troops for three months at a Palestinian refugee camp, have been granted safe passage out.

An army statement said 25 women and 38 children left the camp, adding that two of the children were taken to hospital.

Security sources say the evacuation deal may open the way for a final assault by troops, but the army has made predictions of victory before.

Nearly 300 people - mostly soldiers and militants - have died in the fighting.

Most of the 40,000 Palestinian refugees living in Nahr al-Bared camp, near the northern port city of Tripoli, fled in the weeks after the conflict started in May.

Final assault

A temporary truce was agreed between the military and the Fatah al-Islam militants to allow the civilians to leave the camp.


The evacuees were received in an army-controlled area within the camp, where they were given food and water.

Three military buses were seen leaving the camp. Those aboard were taken under heavy security to a military barracks for questioning.

Lebanon's military estimates that just 70 fighters remain inside the camp, down from 360 at the start of the violence.

In a statement, the army called on those left behind to surrender as soon as possible in return for "humanitarian treatment and a fair trial".

The army resumed shelling the Fatah al-Islam targets immediately after the civilians were cleared from the camp.

The Lebanese army has said it will not stop bombarding the camp until the militants surrender, something the gunmen have refused to do.

Fatah al-Islam is a radical Palestinian splinter group believed to have links with al-Qaeda. Lebanese officials also say it has ties to Syrian intelligence.

The fighting at the camp is the worst violence in Lebanon since the end of its civil war in 1990. It has added to the current political instability in the country.

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