Golf news, Beirut: Lebanese Christians, wary of the rise of militant Islam in their country, will have to retaliate if they are targeted, a leading politician warned yesterday.The warning by former president Ameen Gemayel, also the leader of the Christian-dominated Phalange Party came as Lebanese soldiers and militants entrenched in a refugee camp fought gunbattles yesterday after at least 17 people were killed in an operation to storm rebel positions.

The army, which has encircled Nahr Al Bared, tried to push into the Palestinian refugee camp in north Lebanon and overrun positions held by Fatah Al Islam militants, which has snipers posted on rooftops.  "Are we in Kabul, or Fallujah or Gaza?" asked an angry Gemayel yesterday, referring to prominent strongholds in the region, as he addressed party supporters celebrating the creation of a UN tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri and scores of others including Gemayel’s son Pierre, the minister of industry, in a string of attacks over the past two years.

‘Imported phenomenon’

"These extremists must be finished, we cannot allow them to grow. Addressing this imported phenomena is the responsibility of our Muslim compatriots," he said, warning that "Lebanese Christians, who are the basis on which this country was built, will not sit idle if their existence and dignity are threatened."

Addressing the Al Qaida-inspired Fatah Al Islam and other militant groups, which recently threatened to target Christians, Gemayel said: "Don’t play with fire," to the cheer of the crowd.

The showdown between entered its fourth week. Amid sporadic fighting yesterday, the army’s spokesman said soldiers had advanced 50 metres inside the camp and were clearing booby-traps from four buildings where the Islamists had been driven out.

"A total of 11 soldiers were killed in clashes during the army advance on Fatah Al Islam inside the camp," the spokesman said.

"Six were killed on Saturday, while five more died from their wounds on Sunday," he added. Almost 40 other soldiers were wounded.

The militants’ spokesman Shahine Shahine told AFP that four of their fighters had been killed and six wounded in beating back the army advance.

Tribunal: Controversial Hariri court comes into force

A controversial international court to try suspects in the murder of Lebanese ex-premier Rafik Hariri came into force automatically yesterday, Justice Minister Charles Rizk said. The UN Security Council on May 30, passed a resolution setting yesterday as the date on which a 2006 agreement between the United Nations and the Beirut government to establish the court is to enter into force, AFP reported.

"UN Security Council Resolution 1757 concerning the establish-ment of an international tribunal to examine the assassination Rafik Hariri came into force on Sunday," Rizk said in a statement. Five members of the Security Council abstained from the May 30 vote, objecting to a decision that bypasses Lebanon’s constitutional process.