At last 38 people, including 11 soldiers, were killed on Sunday, May 20, in fierce clashes between Lebanese army forces and militants of the self-styled Fatah al-Islam group.
Lebanese troops launched a deadly assault on a building in the residential district of Miteyn in the port city of Tripoli where militants were holed up, killing three gunmen, a Lebanese army source told Agence France Presse (AFP).
He added that a civilian and an army captain caught up in the crossfire.
The army said two members of the shadow militant group were arrested in the operation.
An army spokesman said 11 soldiers were killed at Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli and in an attack on an army patrol in al-Qalamoun, just south of the city.
Four Fatah al-Islam fighters had been killed in the camp, which is home to 40,000 Palestinian refugees.
The fighting broke out after security forces raided homes in Tripoli to arrest suspects accused of robbing a bank in the city a day earlier.
The army had sent in troop reinforcements to contain the battles.
A convoy of about 100 troop carriers, jeeps and ambulances estimated to contain between 800 and 1,000 men was seen moving north on the coast road between Beirut and Tripoli.
The army had tightened its grip around Nahr al-Bared camp since authorities charged Fatah al-Islam members with twin bus bombings that killed three civilians in a Christian area near Beirut in February.
The shadow Fatah al-Islam group first surfaced late last November after breaking off from Fatah Al-Intifada group.
In its foundation statement, the group introduced itself as an Islamic group seeking to liberate Palestine and restore Muslim sanctities captured by Israel.
The group, said to be headed by Shaker Abssi, who was born in Areha in 1955, said it would fight Israelis and their supporters.
Abssi was sentenced to death in Jordan for killing a US diplomat in 2002.
He was also sentenced in 2003 to three years in prison in Syria and is now believed to be based in the Nahr al-Bared camp, facing a new arrest warrant issued by the Syrian authorities.
Lebanese authorities have accused Fatah al-Islam of having links to al-Qaeda organization.
Abssi says his group has no organizational links to Al-Qaeda but agrees with its aim of fighting infidels.
The Lebanese government also links the group to Syrian intelligence, a claimed denied by both Damascus and Fatah al-Islam.
The group had denied any involvement in the February bombings and accused the government of framing it to justify a crackdown on Palestinian camps.
Under a 1969 Arab agreement, the Lebanese police and army do not enter the 12 Palestinian refugee camps, leaving security there to Palestinian groups.
Palestinian officials in the camps have expressed mounting concern in recent months about Fatah-al-Islam.
All major Palestinian factions, including the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, have distanced themselves from the group.
"Fatah al-Islam has no link with the Fatah movement, there is absolutely no connection and they have no right to use the name Fatah," said Fahmi Zaarir, Fatah spokesman in the occupied West Bank.
Last Mod: 20 Mayıs 2007, 18:51