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French Version


1st of June: Heavy Fighting at Nahr el bared camp

Heavy Fighting broke out anew on Friday between Lebanese troops and Fatah al-Islam militants surrounded inside the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared as the military sent reinforcements to hunt the extremists.

About 50 armored carriers and battle tanks from elite units massed at the northern edge of the camp and drove toward the forward-most positions, according to Associated Press Television News (APTN) crew at the scene.

There was no confirmation that the army units were making a final push to take over the camp, instead of simply advancing to grab territory and isolate the militants in pockets.

But a significant decrease in shelling, accompanied by a rise in machine gun fire from armored carriers and exchanges of automatic rifle fire, suggested the troops were already engaging the militants.

Military officials at the high command would not comment on the troop movements.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in the clashes, which came after a calm night and a day after a Lebanese soldier was killed in exchanges.

His death brought to 80, including 35 soldiers, the number of people confirmed killed since fighting first broke out on May 20 and led to a mass exodus of people from the camp.

Clouds of smoke billowed from Nahr al-Bared where Fatah al-Islam militants have been holed up in a 13-day siege by the Lebanese army.

The concentrated bombardment began in the morning, with heavy barrages targeting Fatah al-Islam positions after army posts came under fire from militants, according to a military communiqué.

The shelling continued through the morning with troops "returning fire with appropriate weapons," according to the army statement.

Sporadic gunfire exchanges have continued daily since a truce halted three days of heavy fighting.

On a separate front, members of the mainstream Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Islamist Jund al-Sham group exchanged gunfire in Ein el-Hilweh, Lebanon's largest refugee camp near the port city of Sidon.

According to the account, a Fatah militant, whose brother had been killed by the Islamists earlier this month, shot at one of Jun al-Sham members he thought was responsible, without hitting him.

That led to an exchange of small arms fire and grenades that lasted about half an hour at the camp late Thursday.

Nahr el Bared 01-06-2007
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