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Lebanese Wait for End to Army Standoff With Militants

The standoff between the Lebanese Army and Islamic militants in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon entered its second week Monday. In Tripoli, VOA's Margaret Besheer reports residents are worried about how the situation will end.

The only sign of the confrontation between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam militants in the bustling city of Tripoli are the new military checkpoints and the sight of tanks and troops on the streets.

The standoff is taking place on Tripoli's outskirts in a Palestinian refugee camp called Nahr el-Bared or Cold River.

Until last Sunday the camp was home to some 40,000 residents. More than half have now fled to the nearby Beddawi refugee camp, where they are being housed by relatives and aid agencies.

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

The Lebanese Army has increased its presence in and around Tripoli, including banning local fishermen from taking to the sea.

Fisherman Hisam Qaroun says the army has implemented this security measure because they are concerned the militants might try to hijack a fisherman and his boat or kill one and steal his boat to escape.

Qaroun hopes the situation will be resolved quickly because he is not able to earn any money.

On a busy Tripoli street, Selim Dalail sells hot coffee in tiny cups. He says the militants should surrender otherwise civilians will get killed.

Dalail supports a military resolution to the standoff, but says all the civilians remaining in Nahr el-Bared should first be evacuated.

On the same street Ali sells fruits and vegetables.

He worries that if there is a military end to the confrontation the fighting might spread to the other 11 Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, triggering a larger crisis.

The standoff could take months to resolve. In the Lebanese capital, supporters of Hezbollah, the Shiite group that is both a political party and a militant group, have been camped out in the city center for more than seven months in an attempt to bring down the pro-Western prime minister.

The prime minister has stood firm, but many businesses located around the Hezbollah campsite have collapsed as patrons avoid the area and tourism has dried up as the situation drags on.