TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Fighting between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad in Tripoli intensified Friday evening, with no end in sight to the violence that has increasingly targeted Lebanese soldiers.
The death toll from the latest round of clashes between the city’s predominantly Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh and mainly Alawite Jabal Mohsen districts rose to 25, with at least 175 people wounded so far, security sources said.
The Army said four soldiers were wounded when the military responded to sources of fire, bringing the total number of wounded soldiers to 33 since the clashes began on March 13.
The Army announced it had carried out raids in Qibbeh, the Hariri Project neighborhood and Al-Amrikan Street, as well as Al-Baqar and Al-Riva streets, confiscating a number of light and heavy weapons as well as other military equipment.
Earlier in the day, a roadside bomb hit a military patrol unit in the Bahsas neighborhood, damaging a number of vehicles, the Army said in a separate statement.
The makeshift bomb, which contained 1,700 grams of explosives, was concealed inside a dumpster, a security source said. No casualties were reported.
Students voiced concerns of falling behind in their studies as schools and universities remained closed.
“They [gunmen] have made us lose a whole [school] year,” complained Nour Sharif, a senior at the private Rawdat al-Faihaa School.
She also expressed frustration at the schools’ handling of the security situation, saying the administration sends text messages informing students that classes were open but that the school was not responsible for their safety.
Four children were wounded, with one critically injured, after a mortar bomb fell on their home in Jabal Mohsen, while two mortar bombs that landed by the Al-Jihad Stadium wounded four people.
Another child was lightly wounded at the vegetable market in Bab al-Tabbaneh, while a house on Syria Street was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and caught fire.
Warring sides traded mortar shells, rocket-propelled grenades and B-10 recoilless rifle rounds.
One B-10 round hit Street 33, which is famous for its restaurants, causing material damage only.
After a night of fierce clashes Thursday, during which the sound of explosions rocked many parts of the city, fighting had eased by around 8 a.m. Friday. But sniper fire continued to reverberate across Tripoli throughout the day.
An RPG struck the home of Mahmoud Qeys in the Beddawi refugee camp, causing material damage, while another person in the camp was wounded by sniper fire while inside his house.
In a bid to curb the cycle of violence in the city, the government decided last December to place security in Tripoli under the supervision of the Army for a period of six months, but the plan was undermined after two rounds of fighting broke out this year.
Meanwhile, the head of the Merchants’ Association in Tripoli, Asaad Hariri, warned that Tripoli residents would take matters into their own hands if the fighting persisted.
“If the government continues to abandon its role [in ending the clashes], we will call for civil disobedience in one week,” Hariri told The Daily Star.
“We will stop paying water, electricity and telephone bills because the [poor economic] conditions in Tripoli are no longer bearable,” he added.
In an effort to discuss how to contain the situation, a meeting was held at Tripoli MP Mohammad Kabbara’s residence, with the participation of a number of Tripoli officials. Attendees of the meeting urged gunmen from Bab al-Tabbaneh to declare a cease-fire as of 10 p.m. Friday, but their call appeared to have been ignored.
U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly condemned the violence in Tripoli, after a meeting with Prime Minister Tammam Salam Friday.
“We have all been deeply disturbed by the ongoing violence in Tripoli,” he said in a statement.