- Title: LEBANON: Fragile truce allows much-needed aid into Lebanese refugee camps
- Date: 23rd May 2007
- Summary: CAMP WITH SMOKE RISING
- Embargoed: 7th June 2007 13:00
- Location: Lebanon
- Country: Lebanon
- Topics: Social Services / Welfare
- Reuters ID: LVA69MDKVGCUK9MMJPFULTJ6RIRO
- Story Text: A fragile truce allowed aid trucks to enter a battered Palestinian refugee camp in north Lebanon after three days of fierce battles between Lebanese army troops and Islamist militants.
A fragile truce allowed aid trucks to enter a battered Palestinian refugee camp in north Lebanon on Tuesday (May 22).
Lebanon's armed forces have been embroiled in three days of fierce fighting with Islamist militants in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in the Northern town of Tripoli.
At least 22 militants, 32 soldiers and 27 civilians have been killed since the army and the militant Islamist group Fatah al-Islam began fighting on Sunday (May 20), making it Lebanon's worst internal violence since the 1975-1990 civil war.
Witnesses said a number of aid workers were forced to leave when shells exploded near their convoy, killing at least two youths as they tried to collect supplies.
UN aid trucks withdrew amid the blasts and gunfire.
Residents begged journalists to evacuate them. A man trying to carry a wounded woman to safety had to leave her in the street when bullets began flying.
Fifty-five soldiers have also been wounded.
Heavy fighting at Nahr al-Bared camp, home to 40,000 people near the northern city of Tripoli, raged from dawn until the afternoon. Fatah al-Islam, an al Qaeda-inspired Sunni group has been based in the camp since last year.
Clashes died down after Fatah al-Islam said it would cease fire if the army did the same.
The United Nations used the lull to try to deliver food, water and medical supplies to the camp.
Shocked camp residents emerged from their homes to see the destruction. Shell fire had torn huge holes in buildings. Gunmen roamed the rubble-strewn street. No casualty toll was available.
"We need water, we need to eat, look at the children. Please, God keep you. Our house was destroyed. Have mercy on us. May God have mercy on you," said an old woman going away in a car as many other civilians took advantage of the lull to flee, flying white flags from their car windows, up to 10 people crammed into some vehicles.
Fatah al-Islam has little local support, but the firepower the army has turned on the camp has begun to anger Palestinians.
"Of course, I expect, unfortunately, that the explosions will continue. But the quicker we are in decisively resolving this, the better chances for the government in preventing Bashar and Walid al-Moualem from turning this into another Iraq" said Walid Jumblatt, Lebanese Druze Leader.
The Bush administration has asked Congress for $280 million in additional military assistance for Lebanon in the latest supplemental funding request which has not yet been passed.
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