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French Version

Lebanese army took most of nahr el bared

The Lebanese army said Wednesday the military has taken over all positions in the new part of the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared, squeezing the militants in a small portion at the southern tip of the shantytown.
"All of the buildings in the new part of Nahr al-Bared where the terrorists were dug in have been taken, and one could say fighting has stopped in this area," an army officer told AFP.

The officer, however, said Lebanese troops continued to clear out the remaining pockets of resistance in the camp.

The army's artillery kept up its shelling on the camp's southern front, cornering diehard militants in what has been known as the "old camp," which is a small segment on the southern tip of Nahr al-Bared.

The new part of Nahr al-Bared is an overspill from the original camp, whose perimeter was fixed by the United Nations and where all the buildings were of one-storey only.

The overspill contains high-rise concrete buildings overlooking the road leading north to the Syrian border, and it is there that Sunni Muslim extremists of Fatah al-Islam have pulled back and are making a last stand.

Three soldiers were killed on Tuesday but Fatah al-Islam casualties were not known.

So far at least 141 people, including 74 soldiers, have been killed in the deadliest violence of the 1975-1990 civil war that comes amid increasing political and security concerns in deeply divided Lebanon.

"We are advancing meter by meter and are securing the new camp quarter by quarter because of the threat of mines," the army officer said.

The northern part of Nahr al-Bared lining the coast is now a wasteland of shattered concrete skeletons and slabs lying on top of the other where the military is edging forward, house by house.

Since the weekend the army says it has destroyed or overrun six Fatah al-Islam outposts and has found "the bodies of several armed elements which had been apparently prepared for burial at the abandoned positions."
As the fighting with Fatah al-Islam continued on Wednesday, mediators hinted at a possible cease-fire deal with the militants that included the disarmament of the al-Qaida-inspired militants.

According to a Palestinian Muslim cleric who has been acting as mediator, the deal would include a cease-fire, to be followed by the militants' disarmament.

The cleric, Sheik Mohammed Haj, told The Associated Press news agency he had a "very positive" meeting with Fatah al-Islam leaders inside the camp but would not give details before a scheduled meeting with the army command on Wednesday.

He earlier told the official National News Agency (NNA) that the militants agreed to conditions of his Palestinian Scholars Association.

The cleric did not offer more details, but the private New TV station said the conditions also include return of refugees, takeover of the camp by other Palestinian factions and Fatah al-Islam's dissolution.

Meanwhile, Abu Imad Rifai, a representative of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, told Al-Manar television that the progress was made after Fatah al-Islam "opened the doors for a solution" and accepted to "dissolve."

NNA said three Lebanese helicopters fired 12 rockets at suspected Fatah al-Islam positions in the camp late Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Lebanon's top military magistrate Rashid Mezher issued formal arrest warrants for nine suspected militants who were detained earlier this month in east Lebanon's Bekaa Valley town of Bar Elias, NNA reported. The agency did not say to which group the nine belonged but said they comprise six Lebanese, two Syrians and a Saudi.

The battle to drive the terrorists out has led to significant damage to parts of the camp, once home to some 30,000 Palestinian refugees. Only about 5,000 remain inside, after most residents fled to the nearby Beddawi refugee camp.

An amateur video obtained by Associated Press Television News on Tuesday showed major destruction in largely deserted residential neighborhoods.

Debris from collapsed walls and balconies littered the narrow alleys, covered with ripped electricity wires. Shells and shrapnel holes peppered some buildings. A burnt car and a parked pickup truck with a collapsed wall resting on it lay on one deserted street.

The video, taken at different periods between May 27 and June 10, showed very few residents. Six men were seen gathering around a hose to fill up cans with water. In one house, a family was sitting on the floor for a meal.

Beirut 20-06-2007
First Lebanon

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