NAHR AL-BARED, Lebanon (Reuters) -Islamists who have fought the Lebanese army at a Palestinian refugee camp for the past three months are seeking a truce to let their families and other civilians flee, an intermediary said on Tuesday.
A spokesman for the Fatah al-Islam group, Abu Salim Taha, called the Palestinian Clerics’ Association late on Monday to ask for help in arranging a ceasefire in the fighting at Nahr al-Bared camp in north Lebanon, an association member said.
Palestinian clerics have tried unsuccessfully in the past to mediate between Fatah al-Islam and the army, which demands the unconditional surrender of the al Qaeda-inspired militants.
Lebanese and Palestinians sources have estimated that between 40 and 80 civilians, mostly the wives and children of the militants, remain in the camp, which lies in ruins after weeks of tank, artillery and helicopter bombardment.
Most of the camp’s 40,000 refugees fled early on in the fighting which has killed nearly 300 people, making it Lebanon’s worst internal violence since the 1975-1990 civil war.
“The army said they don’t mind if the rest of the civilians flee. Abu Salim Taha will speak to us again today so that we can facilitate a mechanism for the evacuation,” said the member of the Palestinian Clerics Association. He asked not to be named.
The army could not immediately be reached for comment.
Another Lebanese soldier was killed in Nahr al-Bared on Tuesday, bringing the army’s overall death toll to 141 since the conflict began on May 20, security sources said. At least 100 militants and 41 civilians have also been killed.
Fatah al-Islam split from a Syrian-backed Palestinian faction last year. It says it shares al Qaeda’s ideology but has no organizational ties to Osama bin Laden’s network.
The conflict has added to instability in Lebanon, where a political crisis has paralyzed the government since November.