Islamic militants killed a soldier Thursday in a Palestinian camp where violence has raged for three weeks, and a bombing in a Christian town killed at least one man in the latest in a string of explosions that has shaken Lebanon since the fighting erupted.
In eastern Lebanon, an army raid on a suspected militant hideout uncovered vehicles rigged with explosives that were hidden in a garage with several rockets.
Tensions have been high in Lebanon since fighting broke out May 20 between the army and Fatah Islam militants in the northern Nahr el-Bared refugee camp. There also have been clashes at the Ein el-Hilweh camp in the south and several bombings in the Beirut area, sparking fears of spreading chaos.
The soldier was shot by Fatah Islam snipers in the Nahr el-Bared camp, security officials said. Earlier, the al-Qaida-inspired militants attacked an armored personnel carrier, wounding three soldiers, and the army retaliated by firing artillery, tanks and machine guns.
The bomb exploded in an industrial area in Zouk Mousbeh, 12 miles north of Beirut and near the town of Jounieh in the country's Christian heartland, security officials said. It set off fires in several buildings.
Civil defense workers pulled a man's body from a gutted building. Three other men were wounded in the blast, officials said.
Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. television said the area targeted consisted of about 300 shops that sell paint and other flammable materials to industrial customers. Stored gas and oxygen containers swiftly caught fire in the blast.
Car bombs found
In eastern Lebanon, meanwhile, the military discovered three explosives-rigged vehicles near the town of Bar Elias, the security officials said.
The raid came a day after three foreign militants — two Syrians and an Iraqi — were captured nearby. It was not known if the militants were members of Fatah Islam, but several suspected group members have been seized or killed in the region in the past three weeks.
The security officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
More than 120 people, including at least 60 Fatah Islam militants, 46 soldiers and 20 civilians, have been reported killed in the fighting — the worst internal violence in Lebanon since the 1975-90 civil war. Recent civilian casualties are not known because the camp has been closed to journalists and aid workers for days. Thousands of Palestinians remain trapped inside.
Five bombings in Beirut and nearby areas have killed at least two people and wounded more than 40.
The U.S. and Arab allies have been rushing military supplies to help strengthen the Lebanese army for a possible full-out assault on the militants, who have vowed to fight to the death.
Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said Thursday the U.S. had completed 21 airlifts to provide ammunition to Lebanon, and that the airport team that unloaded the planes has left.
The airlifts have drawn criticism from the militant group Hezbollah, the Lebanese government's top opponent, whose leader warned Lebanon was being dragged into a U.S. war against al-Qaida that would destabilize the country.
Three suspects charged
Also Thursday, judicial authorities charged three Fatah Islam suspects with being members of a "terrorist organization." Thirty Fatah Islam suspects are currently in custody.
Lebanon is home to 400,000 Palestinians, who are packed into impoverished camps that have become fertile ground for groups such as Fatah Islam, despite the fact most mainstream Palestinians oppose them.
The Palestinian Liberation Organization's representative in Lebanon, Abbas Zaki, said Thursday that Lebanon's Palestinians should be allowed to set up their own security force inside the camps to prevent the formation of armed gangs in the future.
Speaking after talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Zaki said the PLO proposes a force of 4,000 to 5,000 members for the Lebanon camps.