NAHR AL-BARED, Lebanon (Reuters) – Two Lebanese soldiers were killed in fresh battles on Wednesday between army units and Islamist militants at a Palestinian refugee camp, security sources said.
Al Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam militants attacked Lebanese army posts set up at newly seized territory in the outskirts of Nahr al-Bared camp overnight and in early morning, inflicting the casualties, the sources said.
Army units, which had seized two militant positions in heavy fighting on Tuesday, responded by firing dozens of 155 mm artillery rounds at the camp. Black smoke rose above the camp’s cinderblock buildings as thuds of explosions rocked the area.
The battle for the camp, Lebanon’s bloodiest internal violence since the 1975-1990 civil war, has claimed the lives of 140 people, including 62 soldiers, since it erupted on May 20.
The Lebanese authorities have demanded the unconditional surrender of the gunmen, who have vowed to fight to the death.
Fatah al-Islam was officially formed late last year. Its leader, veteran Palestinian guerrilla Shaker al-Abssi, says he shares the same ideology as al Qaeda but has no organizational links with that group.
Many of his men are foreign Arab fighters, some of whom have fought in Iraq.