Lebanon army moves closer to refugee camp
Lebanese ground forces, backed by artillery, tightened the siege Friday around Islamist fighters holed up inside a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon.
Thick smoke could be seen rising from targets struck by army tank fire and mortars inside the northern Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, where a security source said "an important position of the extremist group has been destroyed." Troops were moving toward the camp's northwestern entrance "where most Fatah al-Islam fighters are entrenched," the source said.
According to AFP, a military source said a commando of some 1,000 men was involved in the operation. "The army is attempting to prevent the gunmen from using high points for sniper fire. We are now controlling high points just outside the camp," said a military spokesman.
"The army did not enter the camp, but has controlled tall buildings inside the camp from a distance," said the spokesman. Two troops were lightly injured in Friday's fighting, according to officials at a local hospital.
AFP reported some 20 army vehicles, including tanks, taking up new positions on the road leading to the camp from the south, while another 10 armoured vehicles were deployed to the scene of fighting to the north.
Four Lebanese navy patrol boats could also be seen off the coast outside the camp.
An army spokesman earlier said the fighting flared again when militants of the Al-Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam group opened fire at around 7:00 am (0400 GMT) on army positions outside the camp. He said they also fired on the main road linking it to the nearby city of Tripoli.
"The army responded with precision fire from tanks and mortars in a legitimate act of defence and in an attempt to spare civilians" inside the camp, he said.