TRIPOLI, Lebanon – Three U.S. transport planes carrying military aid to Lebanon's army arrived in Beirut Saturday, part of an international airlift to support troops fighting Islamic militants in a Palestinian refugee camp.
Four ambulances entered the camp bearing medicine on Saturday, and trucks from the international Red Cross brought water, bread and candles.
Souad Ali, 70, one of the people who left, said she had cancer and asthma and did not know where she would go.
"I don't care if I sleep on the street. Anywhere is better than this hell," she said, pointing to the camp.
The fighting broke out Sunday when police raided suspected Fatah Islam hideouts in Tripoli, searching for bank robbers. The fighting spread to the nearby refugee camp where the group had set up.
At least 20 civilians and 30 soldiers were killed in the fighting earlier this week. The Lebanese military says 60 Fatah Islam fighters were killed; the group put the toll at 10.
About half of Nahr el-Bared's 31,000 residents have fled since the truce took hold, flooding nearby Beddawi camp.
The Lebanese army has been gearing up for a renewed fight, rolling more troops into place around the camp already ringed by hundreds of soldiers backed by artillery and tanks.
Fatah Islam has claimed to have over 500 fighters, armed with automatic weapons, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. The group's leader has been linked to Al-Qaida in Iraq and says he admires Osama bin Laden.
Eight military transport planes have landed at Beirut airport since late Thursday — four from the U.S. Air Force, two from the United Arab Emirates and two from Jordan. The Lebanese military confirmed it has received supplies from Arab countries and the U.S. but gave no details. Media reports said they included ammunition, body armor, helmets and night-vision equipment.
U.S. military officials have said Washington will send eight planes of supplies, part of a package that had been agreed on but that the Lebanese government asked to be expedited. The three U.S. transport planes that arrived Saturday came from Kuwait, said airport officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The U.S. aid is sensitive in a nation deeply divided between supporters of a pro-Western government and an opposition backed by America's Mideast foes, Iran and Syria. The opposition, led by the Shiite Hezbollah, accuses Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's government of being too closely allied to Washington.
Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah warned Friday that Lebanon was being dragged into a U.S. war against al-Qaida that would destabilize the country. He advised the military against assaulting the refugee camp, calling instead for a negotiated solution.
An all-out assault on the camp risks sparking unrest and violence elsewhere in the country, where some 400,000 Palestinian refugees live, mostly in camps that are rife with armed groups.
The U.S. military aid also could attract other militants into what they see as a battle against the West and its allies.
A group billing itself as al-Qaida's branch in Syria and Lebanon vowed "seas of blood" Friday if the Lebanese army resumes its attack.
Meanwhile, Palestinian factions have been scrambling to find a negotiated solution to end the siege. Defense Minister Elias Murr said Friday he was "leaving room for political negotiations," which he said must lead to the surrender of the Fatah Islam fighters inside the camp.
"If the political negotiations fail, I leave it to the military command to do what is necessary," he said.