TRIPOLI, Lebanon: The Lebanese Army faced off against armed militants in the Tripoli neighborhood of Bab al-Ramel as fighting intensified late Friday, deflating hopes the violence would subside after five days of fierce battles. “A popular proverb goes: Words of the night are erased by the day, but nowadays words of the day are erased by the night,” a resident of Tripoli who asked to remain anonymous told The Daily Star.
“Despite all the statements about the completion of the security plan and the measures taken by the Lebanese Army and security forces and their quick action during the day, these assurances go to waste with the coming of the night,” he said.
Heavy deployment by the Army and security forces did not prevent the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen from exchanging rocket and sniper fire well into the night, bringing the total number of killed to eight with more than 70 others wounded since Monday.
Two people were killed Friday, including Katia Kaddoura, 14, who was hit by sniper fire Friday in the neighborhood of Bakkar. Riyad Salaheddine Salouqani, from the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood, also died, succumbing Friday morning to wounds sustained during shelling the night before.
Another child identified as Omar al-Ali, 13, was wounded by sniper fire, also in Bakkar. A Syrian worker was critically wounded by sniper fire at the Mallouleh roundabout. Two more people were wounded in the clashes between soldiers and fighters from the Abu Rati Shateh.
A brief lull Friday morning was followed by intense sniper fire during the day, prompting citizens to stay home. Several stores caught fire in the neighborhoods of Al-Tall and Zahrieh, and a number of shops in Zahrieh were targeted by gunfire, although the heaviest fighting was limited to Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen.
Rana Naboulsi, a resident of Zahrieh, told The Daily Star that they could hear the battles all night. She lamented the total absence of the state in the city.
“How do state officials ask us to abide by the laws when they cannot protect us?” she said.
Tripoli 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 televised interview with Assad.
As the violence showed no signs of letting up, President Michel Sleiman announced he would postpone his upcoming Sunday visit to Vienna to follow up on security developments.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati held a series of meetings Friday to address the situation and monitor the Army and security forces’ field actions.
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,” Salam said.