Four killed in Syria-fuelled sectarian violence in north Lebanon
Three people including a teenager were killed Saturday in the northern city of Tripoli from fighting between gunmen in Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, raising concerns of renewed clashes between anti and pro-Assad fighters in the rival neighborhoods.
Sniper fire claimed the lives of Abdel-Rahman Merhe, 16, Al-Taqwa Mosque guard Omar Hasnawi and Ramziyeh al-Zohbi, the wife of a Tripoli mukhtar, a security source said, adding that 30 people including two soldiers were also wounded in the clashes that erupted in the morning.
The fighting comes following a string of sectarian attacks targeting Tripoli’s minority Alawite community which is centered in Jabal Mohsen, a neighborhood that staunchly supports President Bashar Assad.
In a statement, the Lebanese Army said that two of its own were wounded by gunfire on a number of military posts in the city. Soldiers are pursuing the gunmen and responding to sources of fire, it said.
The military moved in early in the day to evacuate Al-Luqman School where students had been trapped due to heavy sniper fire. A number of pupils had earlier fled the school premises, fearing the violence.
Repeated gunfire also forced shop owners on Syria Street, which separates the rival neighborhoods, and the nearby area of Al-Malloulah to close their businesses.
The Army also blocked the highway linking Tripoli to Akkar due to sniper fire.
Security and political officials feared a return of deadly clashes to the city particularly after the string of attacks targeting Lebanese Alawites, the source said.
Residents of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh have engaged in 17 rounds of clashes since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in 2011.
Earlier this week a Sunni group from Bab al-Tabbaneh, which strongly opposes Assad, claimed responsibility for the recent shooting and wounding of three Alawites in the city.
Rumors spread in the city that similar attacks against the minority sect would continue until the head of the pro-Assad Arab Democratic Party, Ali Eid, was the handed over to authorities.
Eid was charged with aiding the smuggling of a suspect involved in the Aug. 23 Tripoli bombings across the border into Syria last month. He has failed to appear in court for questioning over his alleged role.
The twin August car bombs detonated outside separate mosques in Tripoli, killing 47 and wounding more than 100.
Seven suspects were charged with involvement in the attacks. Two of the suspects are members of the ADP, which is based in Jabal Mohsen.
A security source said Saturday that the Army is trying to restore calm in the city and contacting leaders in the rival neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh.
In its statement, the Army said it had boosted its security measures in the port city and apprehended one suspect for allegedly shooting a man from Jabal Mohsen.