TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Fighting renewed for the fifth day Monday between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, shattering a brief period of calm, killing three civilians and wounding more than 13 others, including two soldiers, security sources said.
Monday’s clashes brought the death toll to 15 and the number of wounded to around 90 since the latest round of violence erupted last Thursday in renewed hostilities directly linked to the three-year-old war in neighboring Syria.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam is set to meet at the Grand Serail Tuesday with Tripoli’s lawmakers, including former Prime Minister Najib Mikati, to discuss how to stabilize the security situation in Lebanon’s second largest city.
The din of gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades reverberated across Tripoli, sending residents scurrying for cover as rival gunmen in the majority-Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh and the predominantly Alawite Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods exchanged machine-gun and RPG fire. Residents in Bab al-Tabbaneh support the anti-Assad uprising, while Alawite residents in Jabal Mohsen back the regime in Syria.
The Lebanese Army, deployed in Tripoli last year as part of a security plan to maintain law and order in the war-ravaged city, came under fire from the opposing sides, prompting it to respond in kind, security sources said.
Troops, stationed near the Tripoli citadel, which overlooks the two rival neighborhoods, responded to the sources of fire in an attempt to calm the situation.
Three civilians were killed and more than 13 others, including a 10-year-old boy, were wounded by sniper fire, security and hospital sources said.
Two soldiers were also wounded when an RPG struck their units in Gharbaa and the Abu Ali Roundabout, as the military continued to respond to the sources of fire.
The latest round of fighting began last Thursday over the killing of a man from Jabal Mohsen. It escalated Sunday after gunmen in Jabal Mohsen unleashed volleys of gunfire to celebrate the Syrian army’s recapture of the rebel bastion of Yabroud in the Qalamoun region adjoining the Lebanese border.
The fighting kept thousands of students at home, as private and government schools and universities remained closed.
The Army blocked a vital highway linking Tripoli to Akkar due to intense sniper fire on the road, while the city’s businesses remained closed and streets were deserted.
Monday’s clashes shattered a relative calm that prevailed in the city earlier in the day when an education society and some students held a protest outside the city’s Serail, demanding an end to the battles.
Waving Lebanese flags and banners that read “Enough, enough” and “We want to study,” the protesters demanded that schools and universities be reopened in the city. They called on government officials to restore security and stability to Tripoli so they could return to school.
Former Minister Faisal Karami said Tripoli was living in a “true war situation,” adding that efforts should be exerted to transform it into an arms-free city.
“The most dangerous thing in this round of fighting are the attacks on the Army,” Karami told reporters in his hometown.