Islamist guerrillas who have been locked in three days of ferocious gun battles with Lebanese troops announced a unilateral ceasefire Tuesday amid mounting concern over civilians caught up in the conflict. The move came amid a lull in fighting at Nahr Al Bared, a squalid Palestinian refugee camp transformed into a war zone by a barrage of Lebanese tank and artillery fire aimed at wiping out the Al Qaeda-inspired Sunni group, Fatah Al Islam. Abu Sali Taha warned, “If the bombardments of the army resume we will be patient for a while, but we will respond if they persist.”
The camp, which is the scene of fighting, is one of about 12 in Lebanon under a four-decade–old arrangement. It remains outside the authority of the government, creating a security vacuum that allows armed Palestinian factions to take control. Fatah Al Islam is a faction within Fatah that identifies itself with Al Qaeda. Sultan Abdul Anyayn, head of the mainstream Fatah, warned, “No Palestinian, or Palestinian faction in Lebanon will accept seeing the Palestinian people slaughtered in a collective punishment as it is happening in Nahr Al Bared.”
Syria has denied any ties with Fatah Al Islam but has warned that the planned international tribunal murder trial of those who killed former premier Rafiq Hariri would only destabilize the region.
Information from The Middle East Times