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French Version

Army uses loudspeakers to call on Fatah al-Islam to surrender

The Lebanese Army Friday used loudspeakers to appeal to the remaining Fatah al-Islam fighters inside the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp to allow their wives and children to leave the camp and urged the militants to surrender and come out of the camp with their hands raised so they may get a fair trial and avoid further bloodshed.

A cautious calm, which prevailed Friday morning, gave way to renewed intermittent shelling by the army just before 5 p.m., as the army continued advancing on all fronts, closing the vise around the encircled militants. Lebanese flags could be seen fluttering in ever greater numbers atop the rubble that dominates the camp's skyline after the army took control of a small hill insdie the camp. Four Katyusha rockets were fired from the camp Friday landing in Deir Ammar to the south east.

The army reported one more casualty, First Adjutant Bassam Khodr Jawhar, from Akkar born 1978, who was killed Thursday. The latest casualty brings the army's total killed since May 20 to 113, with over 80 militants killed.

Sheikh Mohammad al-Hajj, a member of the Palestinian Clerics League, told The Daily Star that Friday's attempt to get the wives and children of militants out of the camp has failed: "They simply do not wish to leave. We estimate there are 150 women and children in the camp, we were trying to get 65 out on Friday."

Hajj said that communication is not easy with those remaining inside the camp: "We used to call them on the phone, but now we only have limited channels of communications." He said that the army has been very helpful and has assisted the league in its efforts to ensure civilians leave the camp.

Militants are believed to be holding on to the area around the Shifa'a Center and the military fortifications at the southern seaward edge of the camp that used to belong to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).

These fortifications include hardened underground bunkers built by Palestinian factions to withstand air attacks.

An army source told The Daily Star that the army is in control of all coastal positions in the camp and that militants are now cornered in an ever shrinking area in the heart of the old camp: "The day saw only light intermittent clashes, we only responded to sources of hostile fire and are continuing to clear mines and booby traps in the camp to allow our forces easier access and freedom of movement in the camp."

The source said the army has to date made repeated calls on the militants to allow their families to leave the camp, adding that the militants retain the option to surrender in order to curtail the bloodletting and avoid further tragedy and anguish from befalling the Palestinian people.

The National News Agency on Friday reported that the underground bunkers are being used as platforms for launching Katyusha rocket attacks at civilian areas around the camp. The militants initially used the Zaatar gardens to fire rockets from until it was captured by the army.

Israeli fighter jets over flew the Nahr al-Bared camp Friday morning along the seaward side, according to news reports. The Army has allowed local fishermen for the first time since the start of the fighting to collect fishing nets abandoned in the sea around the camp since fighting started.

The NNA also reported that the army has brought up reinforcements in what appears to be preparations for a final push aimed at concluding 63 days of ferocious fighting that left the camp and the homes of 32,000 Palestinian refugees in ruins.

Richard Cook, UNRWA director in Lebanon, said in an interview with Reuters Friday that he could not estimate reconstruction costs until fighting had stopped and damage had been assessed: "We are looking at a substantial reconstruction effort ... It will certainly run into hundreds of millions of dollars." He said Germany, Italy and other donors had expressed willingness to provide some of the money.

Beirut 21-07-2007
The Daily Star

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