Nearly 400 Lebanese soldiers have deployed near the Syrian border after Lebanon
demanded a Palestinian pro-Syrian group hand over members who shot dead a Lebanese contractor, a security official said Wednesday.
The official said dozens of elite commandos supported by tanks are among the deployment, which started moving into place late Tuesday near the remote southeastern village of Helweh, a few kilometers from the Syrian border.
Fatah Uprising group has a training base in Helweh and members of the group allegedly shot dead Mohammed Ismail, a civilian contractor working for the Lebanese army
on Tuesday, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was unauthorized to speak to the media.
Lebanese authorities are calling on the group to hand over those who killed the contractor, the official said.
But Fatah Uprising, one of several Damascus-based Palestinian factions with bases in Lebanon, has so far declined to turn any of its members over, claiming the group did not kill the contractor, the official added.
It was unclear if the Lebanese army plans to storm the group's base, which is on the edge of the village of Helweh and just 1 kilometer from the border with Syria.
Fatah Uprising broke with the mainstream Palestinian Fatah faction in 1983 and is led by the Syrian-based Col. Saeed Moussa, better known as Abu Moussa.
Tension has increased along the Lebanese-Syrian border since Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon in April, ending a 29-year military presence, amid the crisis that followed the Feb. 14 assassination of ex-Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri
Lebanon has alleged in recent weeks that pro-Syrian Palestinian guerrillas have brought weapons into this country with the aim of causing disturbances. The Palestinians have denied the accusations.
The pressure on Syria is likely to intensify Wednesday when a report by the UN special envoy on Syria-Lebanon, Terje Roed-Larsen, on disarming Lebanese militias is released.
At a summit in Paris
last week, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora
and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
condemned the smuggling of arms to Palestinian terrorists in Lebanon and discussed disarming Palestinians living here.
Lebanon's government and Palestinian factions have formed a committee to arrange for the eventual removal of Palestinian weapons outside refugee camps and for their regulation inside camps.
Saniora also said this week that preparations were underway to demarcate the Lebanese-Syrian border.
A UN team that visited Lebanon to verify Syria's complete withdrawal from Lebanon earlier this year had stressed the need to demarcate the border between the two countries.