Lebanon News

Death toll rises in Tripoli after fierce overnight fighting

Lebanese soldiers patrol the area during clashes in Tripoli, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. (The Daily Star/Stringer)

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Fighting in Tripoli raged overnight as clashes entered their fifth consecutive day and the death toll rose to seven with dozens more wounded.

Riyad Salaheddine Salouqani, from the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood, was transfered to a local hospital after he was seriously wounded during overnight shelling. He died in the morning from his wounds.

Twelve people were also wounded raising the total number of wounded to over 70.

A Syrian worker at the Mallouleh roundabout was hit by a sniper shot in the morning and critically wounded. The Lebanese Army was working to transfer him to a local hospital for treatment.

Security sources told The Daily Star that the fighting overnight was the fiercest and worst since the battles erupted Sunday.

Rocket propelled grenades, mortar shells and machine guns were used in the Thursday night clashes

The sources said that the killing of the father of a pro-Assad fighter was what aggravated the situation.

Bassam Youssef Abdallah, whose son is a fighter in the pro-Assad Arab Democratic Party headed by Rifaat Eid, was killed Thursday afternoon by sniper fire in Jabal Mohsen.

Battles cooled down a little bit in the early morning but sniper firing intensified prompting citizens to stay home.

Schools and shops in the city remained shut and there was no traffic on the roads.

Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr ordered the military police and judicial authorities to launch an investigation into the Tripoli clashes and report the names of fighters involved in the battles.

Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city, has seen recurrent clashes linked to the crisis in neighboring Syria, namely between Jabal Mohsen, which backs Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Bab al-Tabbaneh, which supports his opponents.

Tensions erupted Monday following a television interview with Assad. They were also provoked by the recent charges against an ADP member of being involved in the August deadly twin bombings at the Al-Taqwa and Al-Salam mosques in the city.

Rana Naboulsi, a resident of the Tripoli neighborhood of Zahriyeh, told The Daily Star that they could hear the battles all night. She lamented the total absence of the state from the city.

“It is just like we are foreigners, there is a civil war in the second capital of Lebanon and no official has taken the initiative to try to end the battles,” she said.

Naboulsi said that all residents shared a feeling of bitterness and resentment. “How do state officials ask us to abide by the laws when they cannot protect us?”, she asked.

Video footage circulated on social media showed intense shelling in the city.

“Tripoli is the second capital of Lebanon ... We are not on Mars and we are not aliens,” the caption of the video said. The residents asked social media users to share the video so that “maybe then they would know that we belong to the same country called Lebanon.”

Also Friday, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said that the Lebanese, particularly Tripoli residents, can no longer tolerate the situation in Tripoli.

He added that “some foreign sides are trying to keep Tripoli as a bleeding wound to exploit [Tripoli’s tension] and provoke strife in the city.”

For his part, Tripoli MP Samir Jisr warned against the escalating situation in the city saying that there is regional involvement in the incidents.

“There is regional interference in Tripoli's incidents,” Jisr told the Voice of Lebanon radio station as he cited the latest interview with Assad.

“Assad words were provocative,” he said.

Jisr also regretted that that no decisive measures had been taken to deter perpetrators in Tripoli and control security.

“The perpetrators in Tripoli would not have carried out such actions if they had not enjoyed an umbrella that protects them,” he said.

Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam called for “taking decisive measures to limit the terrible and dangerous situation in Tripoli.”

“It is the responsibility of the state and its official institutions to end the blood game and deal firmly with those tampering with the city’s security,” he said.

Cardinal Beshara Rai saluted the residents of Tripoli for their “patience and steadfastness” and voiced his rejection of paramilitary arms inside the Lebanese state.





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