The Lebanese army hit the Palestinian area at Nahr al-Bared outside Tripoli again yesterday. In my piece on this Wednesday, I wondered whether operations against the Fatah al-Islam militia in the camp would have much effect on the sleeper cells outside the camps. In my conversations with Lebanese friends today, the relation between the two — and the Lebanese army's strategy against them both — became clearer.
For the terrorist sleeper cells (al Qaeda, etc.) now implanted throughout Lebanon, the headquarter of the Fatah al-Islam militia and similar groups inside the Palestinian camps are critical bases of support. Hit those bases, and the sleeper cells are rendered less effective militarily, and more vulnerable to intelligence. In this connection, there are signs that the Bush administration has taken a high-level decision to buttress the Siniora government in the current crisis, and in keeping with the policy of strengthening the Lebanese army's capabilities in general, will be flying several large shipments of ammo and other supplies to it between today and tomorrow. This indicates a certain level of coordination and strategy, because American supplies would not be airlifted without some rational and convincing explanation of what they will be used for — i.e., something a lot more convincing than "we're going to pound those camps until they're sorry."
The picture on the ground in the camps also became clearer today. The head of the Paletinian Fatah organization in Lebanon (the real one, I mean) today released a statement pledging to whipe out the Fatah al Islam terrorist group, and claiming to have mustered some 300 heavily-armed fighters for an operation inside the camp at Nahr al-Bared. The statement, which was translated and read to me over the phone by a friend in Beirut, said that Palestinian civilians in the camp had been warned to leave because the battle against Fatah al Islam inside the camp is going to start tomorrow. Most appear to have left.
Beirut remains a ghost town, with little traffic or other activity on the streets. Since Sunday night, there has been a car-bombing every night except Tuesday — and on that day, security forces nabbed two car bombers on their way to targets. Expectations are high for another car-bombing any minute, although having stuck in Christian, Sunni, and Druze areas — the three pillars of the anti-Syrian and anti-Hezbollah government majority — the terrorists have already made their statement.