A Battle Rages On in Palestinian Refugee Camps

Al-Jazeera reported in Arabic yesterday that the Lebanese army launched artillery shells on the Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon as a response to fire from within the camp, presumably from Fatah al-Islam, the group which has been at the center of the army's attacks. The conflict has now spread to the largest Palestinian camp in Lebanon: Ain al-Helweh in Sidon, where the army is now facing resistance from the armed group Jund al-Sham.

Despite a virtual media blackout in the camps due to army-imposed restrictions, Al-Jazeera obtained some of the first footage to come from within the Ain al-Helweh camp. Because the camps are so densely populated and the buildings so closely packed, any widespread armed conflict within them will be a total conflict involving all residents. As a result, many Palestinians have become refugees twice over -- fleeing their homes and taking shelter in neighboring camps or government buildings.

As is to be expected, Western and Arab news outlets have reported recent events in different frameworks. While major newspapers in the US cast the fighting in the camps as an internal conflict waged between al-Qaeda-inspired groups and the army of a democratic Lebanon, Arab sources have broadcast opinions characterizing the fighting as the latest front in America's War on Terror -- the beginning of another American-backed campaign to destabilize the region.

Questions surrounding Syrian financial entanglement with the armed groups abound in American coverage, but several Arab sources are quick to point out that US military aid to the Lebanese army is no secret.

The Daily Star, an English-language daily based in Beirut, reports on the $280 million military aid package approved by the US Congress for Lebanon in 2007, a sizable increase in last year's $40 million.


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