Heavy exchanges of gunfire erupted Thursday night between Lebanese troops besieging a Palestinian refugee camp and Islamic militants holed up inside, breaking a two-day-old truce.The group's leaders and apologists claim that the terrorist group is trying to overthrow Israel and restore Palestine to the Palestinian people, and yet all it has succeeded in doing is bring Lebanon to the brink of yet another bloody conflict that could turn into another civil war.
It was not clear what prompted the exchanges. Until sundown Thursday, only sporadic gunfire marred the truce.
Earlier in the day, the Lebanese army moved troops around the Nahr el-Bared camp but did not try to advance, apparently giving time for negotiations and for the militants to comply with a government ultimatum to surrender or face a military assault.
The renewed exchanges also came as both sides dug in in their positions — the government determined to root out the militants and the fighters refusing to surrender.
Time tries to track down the lineage of Fatah al Islam and its links to Syria, al Qaeda, and the PLO. One of the reasons that these terrorist groups keep popping up is because you've got countries that decided never to integrate Palestinian refugees into their societies, instead relegating them to no go zones and semi-autonomous areas. Much like the situation in France's banlieus, the Palestinians have turned to increasingly violent ideological and religious leaders. Syria and Iran have also exploited the situation to further their own regional goals.
Speaking of Syria, Assad managed to get some folks to turn out in support of his continued thugocracy. Of course, there were no other candidates and coersion likely played a role as well:
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians thronged the main square of the capital on Thursday to support a second seven-year term for President Bashar Assad.UPDATE:
The rally of more 300,000 came ahead of a referendum on Sunday when voters are expected to approve a second mandate for Assad, who succeeded his farther Hafez Assad in 2000 at the helm of Syria's autocratic regime. There are no other candidates.
The Daily Star reports that they have unconfirmed reports that the Fatah al Islam headquarters building has been destroyed:
A Central News Agency (CNA) report Wednesday said Fatah al-Islam's headquarters inside the camp had been completely destroyed and that Absi was wounded in the shoulder.Terrorists taking over mosques and using them as sanctuaries? What a surprise. Terrorists taking medicine and aid meant for refugees? Again, what a surprise.
The report could not be independently confirmed.
A militant going by the name Abu Hureira who identified himself as Fatah al-Islam's deputy leader told The Associated Press inside the camp Wednesday that "if [soldiers] advance toward the camp, we will open fire."
"They will not enter except over our dead bodies," he was quoted as saying.
Fatah al-Islam militants temporarily took over a mosque in the center of the camp at around 3 p.m. Wednesday, confiscating medicine left by aid workers.
The US is providing the Lebanese military with arms and equipment to fight the terrorists. For their part, the terrorists are threatening attacks against Western (read infidel) institutions in Lebanon.
Lebanese forces battling Islamic militants inside Lebanon will be resupplied by a shipment of U.S. military ammunition, which is expected to arrive within two days, senior U.S. officials told CNN's Barbara Starr on Thursday.UPDATE:
In the meantime, both sides flatly rejected calls to surrender.
A statement attributed to Fatah al-Islam was sent Thursday to several media outlets in Lebanon, saying the militant group intends " to blow up several crusaders' universities and schools tomorrow in the event the Lebanese army does not surrender." Crusaders usually refers to Americans or Westerners.
Responding to Lebanon's call for immediate military assistance, the U.S. military will send as many as six cargo flights carrying ammunition to Lebanon, the officials said.
One senior U.S. military official said it is rare to send military flights on such a mission, considering the sensitive nature of the United States' role in the Middle East. But the Bush administration decided it could not wait to charter commercial cargo planes for the resupply mission, the official said.
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