BEIRUT (AFP) – Islamist fighters in a besieged refugee camp in Lebanon have reestablished contact with Palestinian clerics over plans to evacuate civilians, a spokesman for the clerics told AFP on Friday.
“Abu Salim Taha contacted us again overnight and said that the civilians are ready to leave the camp and that they number 63 — 22 women and 41 children,” Sheikh Mohammed Hajj said.
He said Taha, who is acting as spokesman for the Fatah al-Islam militia, told him that he would contact the clerics, or ulemas, again on Friday to set a time for evacuating the civilians.
“The phone connection was very bad and he said he would call again to finalise the arrangements,” Hajj said.
Negotiations to evacuate the civilians began overnight Monday after Taha contacted the clerics seeking a way out for the civilians who have been inside the NFatah battered camp since May 20, when the clashes between the army and Fatah al-Islam erupted.
But the clerics since then had lost contact with the Al-Qaeda-inspired militants.
The army said it had agreed and was ready for a truce that would allow the families safe passage from the seafront camp.
According to a source close to the negotiations, among those to be evacuated are the wife of Fatah al-Islam chief Shaker al-Abssi and the widow of his number two, Abu Hureira, who was killed in recent weeks.
The remaining militants, thought to number about 70, have been holed up inside the camp since May 20.
At least 200 people, including 142 soldiers, have been killed in the deadliest internal unrest in Lebanon since the 1975-1990 civil war.