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Lebanese Army, Militants Engage in Heavy Clashes


Sporadic gunfire during the day between Lebanese soldiers and Islamic militants in a Palestinian refugee camp ended in heavy clashes just before sunset near the northern port city of Tripoli. From the Lebanese capital, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more on the day's developments.

A Lebanese soldier was killed Tuesday when Sunni militants allied with Fatah al-Islam fired on a Lebanese Army position outside the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp.

The soldier's death raises to 34 the number of Lebanese troops killed since fighting erupted nine days ago.

Sporadic clashes during the day Tuesday gave way to heavy fighting just before sunset, with the Lebanese army firing artillery to silence the militants' fire.

Several hundred al-Qaida inspired militants are believed to be holed up inside the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp.

Most of the camp's residents have now evacuated to the nearby Beddawi refugee camp, where displaced Palestinians protested Tuesday against their poor living conditions and to show their desire to return home.

Mohammed Akra, a displaced resident, said Nahr el-Bared residents are demanding to return to their homes in the camp because they are suffering more than anyone can imagine.

Nahr el-Bared has been a no-go zone for journalists and civilians for the last nine days. Only evacuating residents have been allowed out after they have been screened by the Lebanese Army to be sure they are not escaping militants or smuggling weapons.

Lebanon's government has vowed to root out the militants, while the militants have vowed to fight to the death.

Muslim cleric Walid Abu Haider urged all parties to act quickly to reach a political understanding that would guarantee the displaced Palestinians would be allowed to return to their homes.

Meanwhile, in an upscale Christian neighborhood of Beirut, a man suspected of belonging to Fatah al-Islam was arrested Tuesday after police raided the apartment where he was staying.

Police officials said the man had rented the apartment using a forged Lebanese name and passport and had in his possession several other forged foreign passports. Police also confiscated several CDs and other material that appeared to be related to the group's work.

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