Lebanon: Palestinian refugees flee camp as clashes halted
Palestinian refugees on Wednesday continued to flee a battered camp in northern Lebanon, as fighting between armed Islamists and the Lebanese army stopped after three days. According to press reports, the situation appeared calm in the Nahr al-Bared camp. It is estimated that some 15,000 Palestinian residents have fled the battered refugee camp.
Fatah al-Islam said it would abide by a unilateral ceasefire it declared on Tuesday but vowed its fighters would not turn themselves in. "We respect the truce, but we will not surrender. If we are attacked, we will fight until the last drop of blood," spokesman Abu Salim told AFP. Meanwhile, witnesses told Naharnet Wednesday that Fatah al-Islam leader Shaker Absi was seriously wounded during Lebanese army shelling of the group’s headquarters in Nahr al-Bared camp.
Relief agencies voiced continuing concern about the refugees' plight as men, women and children poured out of Nahr al-Bared towards the nearby Beddawi refugee camp or the Mediterranean port city of Tripoli.
The refugees have been fleeing since the two sides halted fire on Tuesday after three days of gunbattles around the camp and in Tripoli that have killed 68 people. According to army and Palestinian sources, 30 troops and 18 militants have been killed along with 19 Palestinian refugees and one Lebanese civilian.
EU foreign policy envoy Javier Solana, in Beirut for talks with leaders on both sides of the political divide, had appealed for a halt to the bloodshed on Tuesday. "I am hoping very much for calm," he said after meeting Lebanon's embattled Western-backed Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.