Lebanon Truce Lasts Just Minutes

May 22nd, 2007 | Posted in War and Terror

Al Jazeera, 22 May 2007


A ceasefire declared after three days of fighting between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army has collapsed after just 40 minutes.

Abu Sali Taha, spokesman for the group, said on Tuesday that they were ready to “respect a ceasefire” in order to help the residents of the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp which troops have been shelling since Sunday.

But Zheina Khodr, Al Jazeera’s correspondent outside the Palestinian refugee camp in Tripoli, said that gunshots and tank fire could still be heard.

A UN aid convoy which entered the Nahr al-Bared during a lull in violence has been forced to leave after it was hit in renewed fighting.

Two ceasefires in the past three days have collapsed just hours after being agreed and more than 80 people have been killed in the country’s worst internal violence since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Humanitarian concerns

The UN convoy that was allowed into the camp on Tuesday as fears of a humanitarian disaster grew withdrew after being caught between the Lebanese army and Fatah Islam fighters.

About 30,000 Palestinians living in Nahr al-Bared are reportedly running out of food, water and medicines as the refugee camp remained virtually under siege.

“We are very concerned about the humanitarian situation that is deteriorating every minute,” Hoda Samra, spokeswoman for UNRWA, the agency that cares for Palestinian refugees, said.

“We have been trying since yesterday to bring in basic food and medical supplies. We have trucks loaded with water, bread and milk for the babies and medical supplies.”

Medical sources have been calling for a halt to the fighting so they can reach the dead and wounded on the streets.

Omar Keenan, a doctor in one of the camp’s medical centres, told Al Jazeera the situation was a “disaster”.

“There are severe casualties. We are in need of blood, our blood bank is empty. We are performing operations on the floor. These medical centres have come under fire and people are crying out for help. We have no ability to cope. The number of casualties is in the hundreds.

Plea for calm

Sheikh Salim Lababidi, mufti of Palestinians in Lebanon and the diaspora, appealed through Al Jazeera for the world to open its eyes to what is going on in the camp in Lebanon.

He said: “People inside the refugee camp have contacted me, saying that more than 100 civilians have been killed and injured in the camp.

“We have all denounced the killing of army soldiers, but no one has denounced the killing of dozens of these civilian Palestinians. Why are they being killed and shelled?”

Sultan Aboul Aynan, the Lebanon chief of the mainstream Fatah from which Fatah al-Islam splintered off, called for a halt to the army’s bombardment, warning that civilians were paying the price for the actions of “a gang of outlaws”.

Elsewhere in Tripoli on Tuesday, a member of Fatah al-Islam blew himself up as security forces raided a building in the northern city, a senior security official said.

The man detonated an explosives belt after officers ordered him to surrender in the northern neighbourhood of Mitayn, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Syrian backing?

Some Lebanese intelligence officials have blamed Syria for backing the group, saying it wanted to destabilise the Beirut government.

Shaker al-Abssi, the group’s Palestinian leader, slipped into Lebanon last year after serving three years in a Syrian jail.

But Bashar Jaafari, Syria’s ambassador to the UN, has denied any ties between Damascus and Fatah al-Islam.

And Sana, the official news agency, has quoted Walid Muallem, the Syrian foreign minister, as saying: “We renounce Fatah al-Islam. Members of the group are wanted by the Syrian security services.

“This group serves neither the Palestinian cause nor the interests of the Palestinian people.”

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