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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lebanese Army Targets Fatah Islam

TRIPOLI, Lebanon -- Artillery and machine gun fire echoed around a crowded Palestinian refugee camp for a third straight day Tuesday, as the Lebanese government ordered the army to finish off the Fatah Islam militants holed up in the camp.

Black smoke billowed from the area after artillery and machine gun exchanges at the Nahr el-Bared camp on the outskirts of the port city of Tripoli.

Relief supplies could not enter the camp as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency scrambled to evacuate one of its employees, a Palestinian aid worker wounded Monday, Taleb Salhani of the agency said.

Lebanese soldiers stopped six UN trucks, including a water tanker, saying it was too dangerous to enter the camp, leaving them parked by the roadside. Salhani said he hoped for a cease-fire later in the day to allow the UN convoy through.

Inside the city itself, security forces moved in against a suspected Fatah Islam hideout in an apartment building, witnesses said.

Shots rang out at midmorning as security forces, after receiving a tip about armed men in an apartment, raided a building using tear gas and leaving it gutted. Apparently no one was caught.

The developments reflected the government's determination to pursue the Islamic militants who have staged attacks on Lebanese troops since Sunday, killing 29 soldiers. Some 20 militants have also been killed, as well as an undetermined number of civilians.

Lebanon's Cabinet late Monday authorized the army to step up its campaign and "end the terrorist phenomenon that is alien to the values and nature of the Palestinian people," Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said.

Major Palestinian faction leaders met with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora for the second time in as many days, and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana arrived Tuesday in Beirutto discuss the latest crisis.