Lebanon News

Tripoli death toll rises after overnight clashes

Lebanese soldiers stand at a checkpoint in Tripoli, Friday, Jan. 10, 2014. (The Daily Star/Stringer)

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Two people died and over a dozen were wounded in the northern city of Tripoli Monday as a result of heavy overnight clashes, but tenuous calm was restored in the morning hours in Lebanon’s second largest city.

Zaher Ghomrawi was killed by sniper fire while crossing on the Mallouleh roundabout while Jihad Halawani, from the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood, was killed from the shelling.

RPG, mortar bombs and gunfire were used in the overnight battles.

Monday’s toll brought to four the number of fatalities and 34 the number of wounded people since clashes erupted between gunmen of the mainly Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood and their rivals in Alawite Jabal Mohsen.

Residents from across Tripoli neighborhoods expressed their anxiety over the deteriorating situation and terrible human conditions in the city.

Abed Mahfoud, from Jabal Mohsen, told The Daily Star that his neighborhood is paying the price of political divisions and conflicts.

“It is not acceptable that over 15,000 Alawites in Tripoli pay the price of a political dispute,” he said.

“Each time something happens in Arsal or over the government formation and similar matters, battles in Tripoli resume.”

Clashes renewed in the city after eight people, including six children, were killed Friday from a rocket attack on the northeastern Lebanese town of Arsal.

Meanwhile, fragile calm endured in Tripoli since the morning hours despite some intermittent gunfire in some of the city’s neighborhoods.

Most schools in the city remained shut as well as businesses near the two rival neighborhoods.

The international road that connects Tripoli to Akkar also remained closed.

Tripoli has witnessed numerous rounds of deadly clashes between the two rival neighborhoods since the uprising against the Damascus regime began in March 2011.

The Lebanese Army deployed in the city last year as part of a security plan to curb the fighting between the two sides but the security forces’ ability to control the situation in Tripoli remains feeble.

Mahfoud said that Jabal Mohsen residents wounded from the battles suffer due to lack of nearby local hospitals especially that they fear getting their treatment in central Tripoli.

“We get trapped, there are no hospitals in our neighborhood and we wait for the Army to come and transfer the wounded to Zghorta,” said Mahfoud.

On his part, Ahmad Zahra, a father of seven from the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood, said he sent his family to stay with their relatives at Mina during the battles out of fear for their lives.

“But I feel embarrassed for making them stay at other people’s homes, we are becoming a burden to others,” he said.

Zahra, a construction worker, said he is supposed to get paid for his job on a daily basis but that the battles prevented him from working.

“I cannot leave my home and go to work, I have no money... what am I supposed to do now, go out to the streets and beg for help?”

Mariam Qassem, a nurse who works at a local hospital, said that most of the people she treats are neighbors and friends.

“The pain is doubled when I see them like that,” she said.

Qassem added that she gets reassurances over her parents’ safety from the wounded neighbors. “Things are just terrible,” she said.





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