Lebanese Strikes Against Militants Enter Third Day

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The Lebanese army has renewed firing on a Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli, attempting to rout Islamist extremists believed responsible for attacks against the Lebanese military in recent weeks. It's the third day of a military offensive aimed at crushing Fatah Islam, an al-Qaida inspired group.

After a lull earlier in the day in an attempt to allow civilians to evacuate, heavy shelling resumed Sunday afternoon. A doctor told NPR that only one patient was evacuated from the camp.

The Lebanese government has demanded the group inside the the Nahr el-Bared camp surrender, saying it's the only way to end the attack. But Abu Hureira, Fatah Islam's deputy commander, rejected the government calls.

"This is not only impossible, this is unthinkable. Our blood is cheaper than handing over our weapons and surrendering," said Abu Hureira, a Lebanese whose real name is Shehab al-Qaddour, in a telephone interview with the AP.

The refusal to surrender came as militants said one of their top leaders had been killed in the fighting.

The Fatah Islam leader killed, Naim Deeb Ghali, who is also known as Abu Riad, was the third-in-command of the group, Lebanese security officials said.

Sunday's army artillery fire appeared directed at militant positions deep inside the camp, indicating the military was advancing further inside.

Meanwhile, fighting also broke out Sunday at a second Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon's south. Islamic militants clashed with army troops at the entrance to Ain al-Hilweh camp.

NPR's Deborah Amos contributed to this report



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