Casualty count rises in Lebanon's Tripoli amidst renewed round of sectarian clashes
Lebanese army officials were deployed to Tripoli in December last year to restore order in the country's northern city that has been torn apart by sectarian violence (File Archive/AFP)
A woman was killed and at least 15 people, including three soldiers, were wounded in sniper fire in Tripoli Sunday amid growing fears of a renewal of hostilities in the northern city, security and hospital sources said.
A woman named Abeer Kayyal, who was critically wounded in sniping fire, died later in hospital, the sources said.
Sunday’s toll brought to 21 the number of wounded people and two dead since clashes erupted between gunmen of the mainly Sunni Bab Al Tabbaneh neighborhood and those from the rival Alawite Jabal Mohsen district Friday following a rocket attack on the northeastern Lebanese town of Arsal that killed eight people, including six children.
Among the wounded Sunday were Mohammad Ibrahim from General Security and a brother of Ziad Alouki, a military commander in the Bab Al Tabbaneh neighborhood.
Life in Tripoli is marred during the day by an exchange of sniper fire between gunmen in Bab Al Tabbaneh, whose residents support the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad, and their rivals in pro-Assad Jabal Mohsen.
But shortly after sunset, the warring factions lob mortar bombs and rocket-propelled grenades at each other’s positions until dawn, causing panic among Tripoli’s residents who remain on edge, fearing renewed wide-scale fighting.
Over the past three days, Tripoli’s residents have been unable to sleep at night while the din of RPG, mortar bombs and gunfire reverberated throughout the city.
The Lebanese Army, deployed in the city last year as part of a security plan to stop fighting between the two sides, responded to the sources of fire in an attempt to prevent the situation from spinning out of control, a security source said.
Troops also raided buildings in the Riva area in the Qibbeh neighborhood in search of gunmen belonging to the Bab Al Tabbaneh district, the source said.
Intermittent sniper fire on Syria Street, the ironically named road separating Bab Al Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, forced schools and colleges to remain shut for the safety of their students Saturday.
The Army cut off the Tripoli highway in the Tabbaneh area to protect motorists from sniping fire, the state-run National News Agency reported.
It added that the Army reopened the highway linking Tripoli with the northern Akkar region and the Syrian border after it was blocked by a number of people protesting the Army’s arrest of three youths in the Beddawi area.
The Army set up a stationary checkpoint in Beddawi to prevent anyone from blocking the highway, the NNA said.
Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city, has witnessed numerous rounds of deadly clashes between the two rival neighborhoods since the uprising against the Assad regime began in March of 2011.
President Michel Sleiman and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati decided late last year to place Tripoli under the Army’s command for a six-month period with the aim of restoring calm to the restive city and ending the recurrent sectarian fighting.
By Antoine Amrieh