Tripoli: Lebanese Islamists yesterday sought the surrender of Al Qaida-inspired militants locked in deadly battles with troops at a Palestinian refugee camp but the group said it would not give itself up.
Two members of Lebanon's Islamic Action Front, which includes Sunni politicians and clerics, went to the Nahr Al Bared camp for talks with Fatah Al Islam's military commander Shahin Shahin, the front's leader Fat'hi Yakan said.
"They [Fatah Al Islam] have reached a dead end. They can only surrender," Yakan told Reuters in Tripoli, just south of Nahr Al Bared. "The only thing that will convince them is Sharia [Islamic law] and religious reason."
Call to stop bloodshed
Yakan, head of the group which is close to Lebanon's opposition, said the delegation had not yet met a negotiator from Fatah Al Islam and did not expect a result immediately.
Another Fatah Al Islam military commander, Abu Hurayra, reiterated the group would not surrender.
"We are with any solution that halts the attacks and the bloodshed ... but we will not accept any surrendering of weapons or ourselves," he told Reuters from inside the camp.
Previous efforts by Palestinian leaders to broker a solution have failed to end the fighting, which began on May 20.
Security sources said a Lebanese soldier was killed yesterday, bringing to 115 the total death toll, including 47 soldiers and 38 militants. Three soldiers were also wounded.
In the squalid Nahr Al Bared camp, abandoned by most of its 40,000 residents, soldiers used artillery and machineguns against Fatah Al Islam's positions in sporadic fighting.
A Reuters witness said Lebanese soldiers took about 20 men, blindfolded and handcuffed, away from the southern entrance of the camp. There was no immediate information on their identities.
The army and the government say Fatah Al Islam started the conflict and have repeatedly called for its men to lay down their arms and surrender, demands the group has rejected.
The authorities charged three more members of Fatah Al Islam with terrorism yesterday, bringing to 30 the total indicted, judicial sources said. The charges carry the death penalty.
Security forces also found a car bomb and two other vehicles containing weapons and explosives, including four Katyusha rockets. The cars were found in Bar Elias village just west of the border with Syria in the Bekaa valley.
'Allow camps to have own security forces'
Palestinians in Lebanon should be permitted to set up their own security force in refugee camps there to prevent the formation of armed gangs in future, a top PLO official in Lebanon said yesterday.
Abbas Zaki spoke after briefing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the fighting in Nahr Al Bared near Tripoli.
The fighting has killed more than 100 people in the worst internal violence in Lebanon since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.
The Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and Gaza has sided with the Lebanese authorities. Zaki told a news conference yesterday Fatah Al Islam members are asking to be allowed to stay in the camp or to be given asylum in another country. "But we say that they should go to court because no one will accept them, and we will not accept them in our refugee camps [in Lebanon]," he said. "They are not a political organisation. They are just gangs."