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Lebanon to receive weapons shipment from U.S.

Story Highlights

• Fatah al-Islam statement warns of impending attacks on Western schools
• U.S. military sending ammunition to support Lebanese troops
• Lebanese PM says government will uproot Islamic militants battling army
• Siniora: Lebanon has no quarrel with Palestinian refugees in country
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BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- Lebanese forces battling Islamic militants inside Lebanon will be resupplied by a shipment of U.S. military ammunition, which is expected to arrive within two days, senior U.S. officials told CNN on Thursday.

In the meantime, both sides flatly rejected calls to surrender.

A statement attributed to Fatah al-Islam was sent Thursday to several media outlets in Lebanon, saying the militant group intends " to blow up several crusaders' universities and schools tomorrow in the event the Lebanese army does not surrender." Crusaders usually refers to Americans or Westerners. (Watch what so unnerves the Lebanese people about the violence Video)

Responding to Lebanon's call for immediate military assistance, the U.S. military will send as many as six cargo flights carrying ammunition to Lebanon, the officials said.

One senior U.S. military official said it is rare to send military flights on such a mission, considering the sensitive nature of the United States' role in the Middle East. But the Bush administration decided it could not wait to charter commercial cargo planes for the resupply mission, the official said. (Watch Palestinians flee during a lull in the combat Video)

The senior officials stressed that the flights are carrying only supplies for Lebanese forces, and the U.S. military has no intention of involving its troops in the fighting, which began Sunday.

The United States is a strong supporter of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government, which it sees as a rare example of a young democracy in the Middle East.

However, Siniora and his anti-Syrian colleagues maintain a weak grip on power and face a serious challenge from politicians from the pro-Syrian Hezbollah movement, who were emboldened after last summer's war with Israel.

Speaking in a live television address on Thursday, Siniora Thursday vowed to "uproot" terrorism from his country, blaming Fatah al-Islam militants for using Palestinian refugees as a prop to attempt to destabilize the country.

Siniora stressed that the target of the Lebanese military is the militants who are holed up in a Palestinian refugee camp, and not the Palestinians.

"We should be clear to decide between a terrorist organization that wants to climb up on the backs of the Palestinians," the prime minister said in a live television address. "The distinction is clear. Terrorism, we will uproot it from our country." (Watch how militant Islamists moved into the camps to recruit Video)

Speaking on Wednesday, Lebanon's Defense Minister Elias Murr said the Fatah al-Islam militant group "has two choices: either surrender or face decisive military action."

On Thursday, the Lebanese military shot and sank two inflatable boats carrying militants from Nahr el-Bared refugee camp near Lebanon's second largest city, Tripoli, an army spokesman told CNN.

Casualty figures were not available, but the army said it believes each boat could have held five to six people.

The fighting near Tripoli is the worst internal violence since the end of Lebanon's civil war in 1990. Between 17 and 25 Fatah al-Islam members have been killed since the fighting broke out Sunday, a Palestinian official said, along with at least 20 civilians and 30 Lebanese soldiers.

Among the dead was Fatah al-Islam's second-in-command, Abu Madyan, whose body was found near the Nahr al-Bared camp, military officials said Tuesday.

Nahr al-Bared is one of several Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon dating back to the 1948 Mideast war that followed the creation of Israel.

A Fatah al-Islam official announced a unilateral truce Tuesday, but it has been interrupted by sporadic violence. (What is Fatah al-Islam?)

After the announcement, a U.N. convoy tried to deliver relief supplies to Nahr al-Bared but was caught in crossfire, trapping workers for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency inside the camp for several hours.

The Lebanese army accused the militants of attacking relief convoys and Red Cross vehicles, which the army said the militants are confiscating. It also said the militants are using the civilians as human shields.

John Holmes, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said Wednesday that the agency's top worry is public health.

"There has been no water and electricity since Sunday, and we don't know what is happening until we get in and get the wounded out," he said. Holmes said people "have talked about bodies in the streets, but we do not have any reliable figures."

Large numbers of the roughly 30,000 Palestinians who call the camp home began to flee Tuesday night. Many of them left on foot, carrying babies and a few belongings, while others crowded into cars and vans with makeshift white flags waving from car windows.

Violence has also spread to other Lebanese cities and towns.

Five people were wounded Wednesday night when a bomb went off in Aley, a majority-Druze town about 11 miles (18 kilometers) northeast of Beirut, the country's Internal Security Forces told CNN. The security forces said the bomb was in a bag that had been left in front of a building close to a shopping district.

Explosions also struck Christian and Sunni Muslim districts of Beirut on Sunday and Monday.

The fighting began early Sunday when Lebanese internal security forces raided a building in the camp and came under fire from Fatah al-Islam fighters. Lebanon's Western-backed government accuses neighboring Syria of backing the militants and fomenting violence in Lebanon, a charge Damascus denies.

Some Lebanese and Syrian officials have cited links between Fatah al-Islam and al Qaeda, and its leader, Shakir al-Abssi, was tried and sentenced to death in absentia in Jordan for the 2002 killing of U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley. But al-Abssi has been quoted as saying his group has no "organizational connection" to al Qaeda.

CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

A bomb ruined buildings and wounded five people Wednesday in Aley, Lebanon.


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