Heavy fighting in north Lebanon leaves 3 dead

Published March 21st, 2014 - 03:48 GMT

Gunbattles between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad subsided in Tripoli, north Lebanon, Friday after heavy fighting over the last 24 hours left three people dead.

Security sources said three civilians succumbed to wounds sustained in clashes that erupted Thursday between the warring neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh.

The latest deaths brought the toll in clashes that broke out last week to 22 killed, including a 10-year-old girl, and 152 wounded.

At least eight Lebanese Army soldiers were wounded in fresh hostilities that broke out Thursday and continued until Friday morning.

Fighting intensified after midnight as the warring sides traded mortar bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and B-10 recoilless rifles.

One B-10 rocket hit Street 33, which is famous for its restaurants, causing material damage only.

The sound of explosions rocked many parts of the city before fighting eased around 8 a.m. But sniper fire continued to reverberate across Tripoli.

Lebanese soldier Bilal Hasan Othman survived sniper bullets that went through his waist and arm, the sources told The Daily Star.

Schools and universities remained closed for a ninth day as students raised fears over the forced closure.

"They [gunmen] have made us lose a whole [school] year," complained Nour Sharif, a Grade 12 student at the private Rawdat al-Faihaa school.

She also expressed frustration at the schools' handling of the security situation, saying the administration sends text messages informing students that classes are open but that their safety is their responsibility.

According to security sources, a bomb placed under a Mercedes-Benz blew up in a military patrol at Tripoli's entrance at 2:30 a.m., wounding one soldier in the face. He was identified as Omar Sabha.

A statement from the Lebanese Army, however, said the predawn explosion caused no casualties.

Meanwhile, the head of the Merchants' Association in Tripoli, Asaad Hariri, warned of civil disobedience should the fighting persist.

"It the government continued to abandon its role [in ending the clashes], we will call for civil disobedience in one week," Hariri told The Daily Star.

"We will stop paying water, electricity and telephone bills because the [poor economic] conditions in Tripoli are no longer bearable," he added.

U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly condemned the violence in Tripoli, after a meeting with Prime Minister Tammam Salam Friday.

“We have all been deeply disturbed by the ongoing violence in Tripoli, by the repeated and totally unacceptable violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty along Lebanon’s northern and eastern borders with Syria and by the consequent loss of life,” he said in a statement.

The long-standing rivalry between the predominantly Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh and the mainly Alawite Jabal Mohsen district has worsened because of the civil war in neighboring Syria.

Fresh fighting broke out March 13 after gunmen shot and killed a Sunni man who has Alawite family members and lived in Jabal Mohsen.


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