updated 9/15/2009 4:48:54 PM ET 2009-09-15T20:48:54

A Lebanese military court has convicted five Palestinians of carrying out armed attacks, including a bombing aimed at U.N. peacekeepers, a court official said Tuesday.

Only one of the five men convicted is in custody. He was sentenced to three years of hard labor, the official said, while the other four men, who are still on the run, were given life sentences in absentia.

Lebanon's most powerful militia is the Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah, but the country is also home to smaller armed factions, some of them inspired by al-Qaida, whose members have attacked international and Lebanese government forces and periodically launch rockets at Israel.

The court found that the men established an armed gang with the intent to kill people, obtained explosive materials and attempted to kill members of a U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon by detonating a roadside bomb targeting a vehicle carrying troops, according to Tuesday's ruling.

In that attack, in January 2008, a roadside bomb that exploded near a U.N. vehicle on a coastal highway south of Beirut lightly wounded two peacekeepers.

The official spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to divulge details of court proceedings to the media.

In July, the same court convicted 12 members of an al-Qaida-inspired group of carrying out attacks, including a bombing of a U.N. peacekeeping jeep in south Lebanon in July 2007.

Several attacks have targeted the international peacekeeping force in recent years. In the most deadly attack, a car bomb killed six Spanish peacekeepers in June 2007.

No group claimed responsibility for that bombing, but al-Qaida's deputy chief, Ayman al-Zawahri, praised the attack. In an audio recording last year, he called on Sunni militants "to expel the invading Crusaders who pretend to be peacekeeping forces in Lebanon."

A 13,000-strong U.N. force was deployed on Lebanon's border with Israel as part of the U.N. resolution that ended the monthlong war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006.

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