TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Security forces led by the Lebanese Army spread into new areas of Tripoli Wednesday, including the restive neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh, as part of its crackdown to restore stability in Lebanon’s second-largest city.
Troops backed by armored vehicles fanned out into the quarter at 4 a.m. as military helicopters fired illuminating flares, security sources told The Daily Star.
Soldiers removed sand barriers, barricades and barbed wires erected by gunmen in over a dozen areas including Syria street, which separates the warring neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen.
“The Lebanese Army is raiding the homes of those wanted [by authorities] and is working on dismantling bunkers and earth mounds erected [during the clashes],” the Army said in a statement, a day after the military detained 75 individuals in Jabal Mohsen on the first day the plan went into effect.
A security source told The Daily Star that the Army would carry out needed raids in Tripoli to arrest all wanted suspects. Last week, the public prosecutor issued 200 arrest warrants, including for militia leaders in Tripoli.
Several militia leaders went into hiding ahead of the raids, but militia commander Ziyad Allouki defied the judicial warrants against him, saying he would remain in Bab al-Tabbaneh until Rifaat Eid, a pro-Assad figure, was arrested.
“I will not leave Tabbaneh and I will not surrender to the Lebanese Army as long as Rifaat Eid is on the loose,” Allouki told The Daily Star in a telephone interview.
A military unit raided Eid’s residence in Jabal Mohsen but did not find him.
Fighters from the predominantly-Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh, which backs the Syrian opposition, and the Alawite Jabal Mohsen, which enjoys close ties with the Syrian government, have engaged in at least 20 rounds of fighting since the start of the crisis in Syria.
A delegation of Tripoli lawmakers and local figures toured several neighborhoods in Bab al-Tabbaneh in a show of support for the Army's plan, which is part of a larger government-approved proposal for Akkar and Tripoli.
Meanwhile, dozens of people marched in a “good-will” demonstration from Bab al-Tabbaneh to Jabal Mohsen, passing through conflict zones and removing pro-Assad posters.
As security forces implemented the second day of the plan, some Tripoli residents opened their shops and markets for business while a few schools resumed classes suspended during last month’s deadly clashes.
In Akkar, the military set up checkpoints in Abboudiyeh and Wadi Khaled, as Army patrol units were seen driving through several areas of the northern town, particularly along the Syrian border.
The military has taken security measures along the northern and eastern border to prevent the infiltration of rebels fleeing the fighting next door, especially after the Syrian army announced it retook several villages along the border.