Fierce sectarian clashes in Lebanon leave 2 dead, 26 wounded
Two people were killed and 26 others were wounded in fierce clashes in Tripoli, north Lebanon, which continued until the early hours of Thursday morning, security sources said.
Security sources identified Abed Sankari and Fawzi Hawshar as the latest fatalities from the overnight fighting, raising the death toll from the daily violence that began Sunday to 16.
Among the deaths were two Lebanese Army soldiers killed Monday. A total of 190 people – including 40 soldiers – have been wounded since the latest round of fighting erupted Sunday.
The overnight clashes between supporters of President Bashar Assad in the predominantly Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen and backers of the Syrian uprising in the mostly Sunni neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh saw once more heavy use of a variety of weapons.
Mortar bombs as well as rocket-propelled grenades sent smoke billowing in the night sky as residents braved another sleepless night in Lebanon’s second-largest city.
Mosque loudspeakers urged residents living on upper-building floors to take shelter on lower levels.
This was the second night of intense fighting the port city has witnessed since the new outbreak of hostilities Sunday.
“Last night was one of the worst nights in Tripoli's history since the [Lebanese] Civil War,” caretaker Youth and Sports Minister Faisal Karami told the Voice of Lebanon radio station Thursday.
The fighting raged well into the morning hours and several attempts by the rival gunmen to advance into each other’s neighborhoods failed.
The Lebanese Army pulled out from Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen Wednesday after mediation attempts to put a cease-fire into effect failed and there was no military presence in Tripoli Thursday.
Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said politicians needed to take action to allow the military to do its job.
"A cease-fire is a big decision required of politicians. After that, the Army will be assigned to oversee the cease-fire,” Charbel told the local Al-Mustaqbal newspaper in remarks published Thursday.
The Daily Star understands that battle commanders in Bab al-Tabbaneh are unwilling to end the fighting before Hezbollah fighters withdraw from Qusair, a Syrian town in Homs province.
The weekend violence erupted shortly after Syrian government troops backed by elite Hezbollah fighters launched a major offensive in the rebel-held strategic city of Qusair, which is located near the border with Lebanon.
A meeting is under way at Tripoli's Serail between Acting police chief Brig. Gen. Roger Salem and senior police commanders to address the security situation.
Salem will also meet with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati at his residence in Tripoli and former police head Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi.