Friday, June 29, 2007

Lebanon army 'kills protesters'


Soldiers have fired on Palestinian protesters in Lebanon, killing at least three people and injuring about 40, witnesses and medics say.

The Palestinians were trying to break through a checkpoint to get back to their homes in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon.

The camp has been the scene of weeks of clashes between the army and Islamists.

Fighting at the camp and associated unrest has left 200 people dead since 20 May.

This makes it Lebanon's worst internal violence since the 1975-90 civil war.

Witnesses said soldiers fired in the air above the heads of at least 100 demonstrators.

When the crowd did not disperse, the troops fired automatic rifles at the protesters.

However, an unnamed army spokesman was quoted by the AFP as saying that soldiers only fired warning shots.

Thousands of Palestinian refugees had fled the camp, where the Lebanese army has been fighting militants from the Fatah al-Islam group for nearly six weeks.

Most refugees have been sheltered since then in the overcrowded Baddawi camp, about 5km (three miles) away from Nahr al-Bared.

Although the stand-off between the army and the militants is continuing, the refugees have been demanding to be allowed to return home.

Lebanon has 12 refugee camps housing more than 350,000 Palestinians. They are people who fled or were forced to leave their homes when Israel was created in 1948, or their descendants.

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