Lebanon declared victory on Thursday in its 33-day war against an al Qaeda-inspired militant group at a Palestinian refugee camp and said its military operation there was over.
The fighting between the army and militants holed up in the Nahr al-Bared camp in north Lebanon was the worst outbreak of internal violence in the country since the end of its civil war 17 years ago and cost the lives of at least 166 people.
“I can tell the Lebanese that as of now the military operation in Nahr al-Bared is finished,” Defence Minister Elias al-Murr told Lebanon’s LBC television. “All the positions of the terrorists have been crushed,” he said, adding that the surviving members of Fatah al-Islam had pulled back from the edges of Nahr al-Bared into civilian areas deep in the camp.
“I dedicate this victory to the Lebanese people … all of the Lebanese people.” Murr said the army would maintain a siege around the camp until all Fatah al-Islam militants surrendered, including their leader Shaker al-Abssi. “They have to surrender … It’s not good enough to say Abssi was killed, if he is dead, give us the body,” he said.
Murr said the army was continuing some mopping up operations and defusing mines and booby traps at the outskirts of the camp. A source at a grouping of Palestinian Muslim clerics, which had tried to mediate an end to the battles, said Fatah al-Islam official Shahine Shahine told the mediators the group welcomed the Lebanese announcement of an end to the operation. “He told us that Fatah al-Islam declares a ceasefire,” the source told Reuters.
Witnesses said only very light exchanges of machinegun fire continued at the camp after Murr’s announcement following a day of sporadic clashes. The fighting had been concentrated in areas held by the militants on the outskirts of the camp. Security forces are barred from entering Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps by a 1969 agreement.
And it continues:
The army says Fatah al-Islam started the conflict on May 20 by attacking its posts. The group, which includes fighters from across the Arab world, says it has been acting in self-defence.
Murr said in a newspaper interview published earlier that some of the fighters arrested were members of al Qaeda. “There is a section of them which belongs directly to al Qaeda,” he told An-Nahar newspaper.
Fatah al-Islam has said it has no organizational ties to al Qaeda but shares its militant ideology.
“Shares its militant ideology“: it would be better to say they share its terrorist ideology…
From Terra España:
What is known as ‘the new camp‘ is an extension to the north, among other causes because of the demographic growth, off the limits of the historical camp fixed by UN in 1948, which was built by quarters of one-floor blocks. The new quarters, which duplicated the initial camp’s area, consist of high blocks built on both sides of the highway to Syria.
It’s in these new quarters where Fatah al Islam was entreched itself since June 20th shooting at the troops. The Lebanese Army has bombed that sector with stopping these last days, destroying with heavy artillery the Islamist positions and making them go back to the south, to the old camp.