TRIPOLI, Lebanon: A woman was killed and at least 15 people, including three soldiers, were wounded in sniping fire in Tripoli Sunday amid growing fears of a renewal of hostilities between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the northern city, security and hospital sources said.
A woman named Abeer Kayyal, who was critically wounded in sniping fire, died later in hospital, the sources said.
Sunday’s toll brought to 21 the number of wounded people and two dead since clashes erupted between gunmen of the mainly-Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood and those from the rival Alawite Jabal Mohsen district last Friday following a rocket attack on the northeastern Lebanese town of Arsal that killed eight people, including six children.
Among the wounded Sunday were Mohammad Ibrahim from General Security, and a brother of Ziad Alouki, a military commander in Bab al-Tabbaneh.
Life in Tripoli is marred during the day by an exchange of sniper fire between gunmen in Bab al-Tabbaneh, whose residents support the anti-Assad uprising, and their rivals in the pro-Assad Jabal Mohsen neighborhood.
But shortly after sunset, the warring factions lob mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades at each other’s positions until dawn, causing panic among Tripoli’s residents who remained on edge, fearing renewed wide-scale fighting.
Over the past three days, Tripoli’s residents were unable to sleep at night while the din of rocket-propelled grenades, mortar bombs and gunfire reverberated throughout the city.
The Lebanese Army, deployed in the city last year as part of a security plan to stop fighting between the two sides, responded to the sources of fire in an attempt to prevent the situation from spinning out of control, a security source said.
Troops also raided buildings in the Rifa area in the Qibbeh neighborhood in search of gunmen belonging to the Bab al-Tabbaneh district, the source said.
Intermittent sniper fire on Syria Street, the ironically-named road separating Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, forced schools and colleges to remain shut for the safety of their students Saturday.
The Army cut off the Tripoli highway in Tabbaneh area to protect motorists against sniping fire, the state-run National News Agency reported.
It added that the Army also reopened the highway that links Tripoli with the northern Akkar region and the Syrian border after it was blocked by a number of people protesting the Army’s arrest of three youths in the Beddawi area.
The Army set up a stationary checkpoint in the Beddawi area to prevent anyone from blocking the highway, the NNA said.
Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city, has witnessed some 18 rounds of deadly clashes between the two rival neighborhoods since the uprising against the Assad regime began in March of 2011.
President Michel Sleiman and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati decided late last year to place Tripoli under the Army’s command for a six-month period with the aim of restoring calm to the restive city and ending recurrent sectarian fighting.