TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Clashes erupted in Tripoli during the morning rush hour Wednesday and continued into the evening as The Daily Star went to press, despite efforts by the Army and security forces to restore order.
A policeman, Toni Saad, and a resident of Bab al-Tabbaneh, Abdel Khaled al-Qaderi, were wounded in an exchange of fire between the neighborhood and nearby Jabal Mohsen late Wednesday.
The fighting erupted earlier when Radwan al-Qari, from Bab al-Tabbaneh, shot Basel Hatwik from Jabal Mohsen in the arm and back at around 10 a.m., severely wounding him.
Hatwik was rushed to Zahraa Dispensary and then to Al-Saydeh Hospital in Zghorta, while fighters in notorious rival neighborhoods – particularly Mankoubin, Riva, Baal al-Darawish and Jabal Mohsen – exchanged intense bouts of gunfire.
Gunfire reached the international Akkar- Tripoli highway, prompting Army units to block the road at Abu Ali roundabout. Yasser al-Mawla from Bab al-Tabbaneh was severely injured by sniper shots.
In an attempt to contain the situation, the Army shot back at the sources of the fire. It also conducted several raids to try to arrest the shooters and launched a series of patrols in tense neighborhoods.
However, dozens of fighters from Mankoubin blocked the road in their neighborhood following the arrest of Qari by the Army, while shop owners in the wheat and vegetable markets closed early fearing further deterioration of the security situation, despite the strict measures enforced by both the Army and the Internal Security Forces.
Anxiety among residents was heightened by the fact that the clashes were still ongoing when students left school and during peak shopping hours in the old city’s markets.
Tensions further rose after explosive specialists were summoned to inspect three vehicles suspected of being rigged with bombs.
In Zghorta, officials also called to check a suspicious car parked near Al-Saydeh Hospital. However, the owner later returned and told Army personnel that he had parked it there because it had run out of fuel.
Two more cars, one in Al-Shiraa Square in the Tripoli neighborhood of Abi Samra and one in the central Nijmeh Square, were also inspected for explosives and determined safe.