05/22/2007, 00.00
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Third day of clashes in the North: over 70 dead

by Youssef Hourany
The offer of a ceasefire between the Lebanese army and Fatah Islam falls on deaf ears; the offensive targeting the Palestinian refugee camp Nahr al-Bared resumes. This morning three soldiers are killed, one of them a 24 year old youth. In Beirut a car bomb explodes in the Sunni quarter wounding 7 people. According to the procurator general the violence in the North and the attacks on Beirut have “strong links”.

 Beirut (AsiaNews) – Fierce fighting between the army and militants from the radical group Fatah Islam resumed this morning at dawn in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared, on the outskirts of Tripoli, Northern Lebanon. After a night of relative calm the military surround the camp, home to over 40 thousand people, bombarding it from the outside. Thus the national army’s proffered ceasefire agreement on the condition that attacks based from Nahr al-Bared end, has fallen on deaf ears. Military sources reveal to AsiaNews that already 3 soldiers have been killed, one of them a youth 24 years old.


It is the third straight day of clashes; so far the death toll stand at over 70 people, many of those camp residents while the wounded amount to three times that number.  Last November in Nahr al-Bared, Fatah Islam – believed to be closely linked to al Qaeda – founded its general headquarters.  According to observers this is the deadliest battle to involve the Lebanese army in over 10 years.  Others suspect Syrian backing behind Fatah Islam, in its efforts to undermine the stability of the Lebanese executive.


Beirut is also draped in mourning today following yesterday evening’s car bomb attack on the Sunni quarter of Verdun; the toll from the explosion is of  7 wounded and the almost total destruction of the "Mandarine" palace.


Following the attack. Beirut authorities have blocked all access to the area, which lies near to the residence of the Parliament President Nabih Berri. Speaking by phone to AsiaNews, the general procurator of the Lebanese Republic, Judge Jean Fahd, underlined “the strong link between events at Nahr al-Bared and the last two bombings in the capital, yesterday’s and the May 20 explosion in the Christian quarter of Ashrafieh”.


The Lebanese government, following an extraordinary session yesterday, has repeated its intent to quash Fatah Islam’s aggressions, insisting on the need to protect the Palestinian populations and defend their right to repatriation.  Political and diplomatic efforts to resolve the crises have redoubled: EU foreign minister Javier Solana, is due to arrive today in Lebanon where he will travel to meet with the local authorities.

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