TRIPOLI, Lebanon: The Lebanese Army enhanced Sunday its presence in the northern city of Tripoli as the death toll from the seven days of fighting between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad rose to at least 16 and over 80 wounded.
Sniper fire over the weekend claimed the lives of five people - Moussa Ahmed al-Masri, Muheiddine Abdul Latif, Omar Abbas, Mohammad al-Jundi and Abu Mariam al-Zaqzouq, Mohammad al-Abbout.
The dead hailed from Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh, the two rival neighborhoods that have fought one another with increasing frequency since the uprising in neighboring Syria began.
The clashes in the city subsided overnight but sniper activity picked up in the morning on Syria Street, Al-Barranieyh and al-Baqqar neighborhoods and Jabal Mohsen.
Gunfire also accompanied funeral processions for the victims of the recent violence.
The Army deployed heavily in the city in the morning hours as Refaat Eid, the head of the Jabal Mohsen-based Arab Democratic Party, urged his fighters to withdraw completely.
Army checkpoints were established along Syria Street, the line that divides the warring Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhoods, where the bulk of the fighting takes place.
The streets of Tripoli remained empty Sunday and shops in the city were closed for business.
The latest round of clashes between the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh, which supports the uprising in Syria, and the mostly Alawite Jabal Mohsen, which backs the Damascus regime, broke out Monday after the appearance of Assad in a television interview.
The fighting comes weeks after the Internal Security Forces Information Branch arrested several people on charges of involvement in the Aug. 23 bombings outside two mosques in the city.
One of the suspects was a resident of Jabal Mohsen and has links to the ADP.
Also Sunday, former Tripoli MP Misbah Al-Ahdab lashed out at caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and other of the city’s lawmakers, accusing them of failing to restore security in the area.
“With the scene of terror [facing Tripoli], we ask what have the prime minister, ministers and lawmakers of the city done [to end the battles]?” Ahdab, addressing reporters at his Tripoli residence, asked.
“They held meetings and gatherings and launched stances and statements, and as usual, the decisions of their meetings remain secret and they just declare that political cover should be lifted from fighters.”
He also said Mikati was not to be trusted, citing what he said were the prime minister’s links to the regime in Damascus.
“Can you trust a prime minister that did not withdraw the license of the Arab Democratic Party after members [of the ADP] were implicated in the bombings outside the Salam and Taqwa Mosques?’ he asked, referring to the two mosques targeted on Aug. 23.
“Can you trust a prime minister who is a friend of Bashar Assad, who considers Jabal Mohsen a district of Syria and when no [Lebanese] official dares object to [Assad’s] statements?” he asked.
Meanwhile, Mikati held a series of political and security meetings to follow up on the situation in Tripoli, a statement from his office said.
Mikati also reiterated that “his priority was to end the battles in Tripoli and restore calm in the city.”