03 September 2007

Victory at last in Lebanon!

Beirut- Lebanese soldiers are searching the north coast for remnants of an Islamist militant group a day after it was routed from a Palestinian refugee camp. The army crushed Fatah al-Islam resistance.

Nahr al-Bared Battle Ended Sunday in a Lebanese victory after the army took full control of Fatah al-Islam's last hideouts in the besieged refugee camp, who have been at war with the Lebanese Army for the past three months.

Troops around the camp fired celebratory shots at around 4:00 pm (1330 GMT) to signal their joy at the end of the deadly standoff that has pitted the army against terrorist Fatah al-Islam fighters.

"The shots you are hearing are celebratory shots, the camp has fallen," the officer said.

Residents near the camp meanwhile waved Lebanese flags and chanted as convoys of cars honked their horns.

Lebanese citizens fired their guns in jubilation, while others waved the Lebanese flags and chanted as convoys of cars honked their horns.

In a statement, the army said that "the militants of Fatah al-Islam attacked army positions in a desperate attempt to flee Nahr al-Bared camp".

The militants reportedly attacked at least two checkpoints outside the camp. It was not immediately known if any of the militants had managed to escape.

The army has cordoned off the area and blocked the main road leading to Syria. Helicopters have been called in to search the area.

Last week Lebanese security officials said they believed that only about 30 Fatah al-Islam fighters remained in the camp, though other reports put the number slightly higher.

Nahr al-Bared was once home to about 30,000 people, but most of the refugees have fled the violence.

Meanwhile, Lebanese troops were still clearing the camp of mines and explosives, but there were no more clashes with Fatah al-Islam, an army spokesman said.

The standoff between the army and the militants began on May 20 and has left more than 220 people dead, including 158 soldiers. Three of the troops were killed on Sunday.

Bags containing the bodies of killed Fatah al-Islam militants lie at a hospital in Tripoli city near the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in north Lebanon.

At least 20 Islamist militants were killed in a battle with the Lebanese army on Sunday when the fighters tried to flee.-(AP, Reuters, yalibnan)

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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.