May 21, 2007


Lebanese soldiers battle militants: 39 are killed near Syria in clashes with Islamists (Hassan M. Fattah and Nada Bakri, 5/21/07, New York Times )

While anxious not to seem weak in the face of the militant challenge, military specialists say, the government and the military also want to avoid scenes that might draw comparisons to the Israeli attacks on Palestinian camps in the West Bank and Gaza.

"We cannot afford to have that here," said Elias Hanna, a retired army general, who warned against a direct assault. "This is not a question of the army's capabilities or its professionalism; you simply can't send the army into the camps to arrest 200 people without paying a heavy price in civilian casualties."

Tensions rose further last night when a car bomb exploded in a nearly empty parking lot in a Christian section of east Beirut, killing one person and wounding 10 others. Last month, Lebanese authorities charged four members of Fatah al-Islam with bombing two commuter buses carrying Lebanese Christians in the same district of Beirut, Achrafie.

Fatah al-Islam has been a growing concern for security authorities in Lebanon and much of the region. Intelligence officials say it counts about 150 fighters in its ranks and subscribes to the fundamentalist precepts of Al Qaeda.

The group's leader, Shakir al-Abssi, is a fugitive Palestinian and former associate of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia who was killed last year in Iraq. Both men were sentenced to death in absentia for the 2002 murder of an American diplomat, Laurence M. Foley, in Jordan.

In the six months since he arrived from Syria, Abssi has established a base at the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp on the northern outskirts of this city, and the scene of yesterday's fighting.

What began as a raid on several homes in Tripoli in pursuit of suspected bank robbers connected to the militant group Fatah al-Islam quickly escalated into an open confrontation with the group at their stronghold in the camp.

Three soldiers and four militants were killed in the early morning confrontation, said a Lebanese security official . Hours later, the official said, militants tied to the group attacked an army patrol in the Koura region north of Tripoli, killing four more soldiers.

Under an agreement with the Palestinian leadership and Arab countries, the army is not allowed to enter the refugee camps.

Beyond their necessary resort to the same justifications and actions as the Israelis it's worth noting that you aren't a sovereign if you can't put down a rebellion within the territory you claim.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 21, 2007 6:45 AM

--you aren't a sovereign if you can't put down a rebellion within the territory you claim.--

Posted by: Sandy P at May 21, 2007 9:21 AM