Prime Minister Fuad Saniora vowed in an address to the nation on Thursday his government would uproot Islamic militants battling the army in a Palestinian refugee camp.
"We will work to root out and strike at terrorism, but we will embrace and protect our brothers in the camps," Saniora said in a televised speech, insisting Lebanon has no quarrel with the 400,000 Palestinian refugees who live in the country.
His address came a day after the Lebanese defense minister issued an ultimatum to the Fatah Islam militants barricaded in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, many of whom are believed to be Arabs from other countries, to surrender or face a military assault.
Saniora said the Fatah Islam militant group holed up in the camp was "a terrorist organization that claims to be Islamic and to defend Palestine" and was "attempting to ride on the suffering and the struggle of the Palestinian people."
Meanwhile, heavy gunfire could be heard Thursday inside the north Lebanon refugee camp surrounded by Lebanese troops.