Heavy clashes erupted late Friday between a Sunni fundamentalist group and fighters of the mainstream Fatah faction in a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon, prompting civilians to flee the area. ( dpa )
The rival fighters exchanged rocket fire in the main street of the densely populated Ain al-Hilweh camp outside the southern city of Sidon, a security official said.
The clashes started as skirmishes in the morning after militants of Jund al-Sham (Soldiers of Damascus) were angered after Fatah's seized a commander of the group and handed him over to the Lebanese Army.
"Yesterday (Thursday) the Fatah organization in the camp kidnapped a member of Jund al-Sham named Samir Maarouf who is accused of carrying out bomb attacks inside the camp and outside," a Fatah source said.
"The Fatah forces handed over Maarouf to the Lebanese army," the official said.
There was no immediate word on any casualties from Friday's clashes.
Jund al-Islam fought a deadly battle with Lebanese soldiers last year, joining in a revolt by the fellow Islamic militants of Fatah al-Islam centred on the north Lebanon refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared.
Khaled Aref, Fatah commander in the camp told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa by phone, that "we will not allow Ain al-Hilweh camp to become another Nahr al-Bared."
The members of Jund al-Sham are mostly Lebanese, many of whom fought against the army during an Islamist rebellion that broke out on New Year's Eve in 1999 in the predominantly Sunni area of Dinnieh in north Lebanon and left 45 people dead, among them 12 soldiers.
Jund al-Sham is believed to have about 50 militants armed with assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades and living in areas at the outskirts of the Ain al-Hilweh camp.