BEIRUT: Clashes erupted early Sunday between gunmen loyal to President Bashar Assad and rivals in Beirut, killing one person and wounding at least 13 in the worst Syria-related fighting to hit the capital since the uprising began in 2011.
Khalil Nabil Al-Hanash died in the fight, the Internal Security Forces announced without elaborating on his role or the cause of death.
Witnesses told The Daily Star that the gunbattles in the neighborhood of Al-Gharbi near the capital's Cite Sportive Stadium began around 3 a.m. The sound of heavy gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades resonated throughout the area as local media reports said at least one building caught fire.
The Army deployed soon after, and was able to restore calm by late morning.
The military issued a statement announcing that it had imposed a security cordon around the affected area, adding that soldiers continued to raid locations of suspected gunmen in order to arrest and prosecute them.
Conflicting reports emerged regarding the parties responsible for the fighting.
According to the National News Agency, the battle pitted fighters from the pro-Assad Arab Movement Party against Islamists, while the party's head, Shaker Berjawi, blamed Future Movement supporters.
"There was a personal dispute at first, but then Future supporters attacked the house of an Arab Movement member and tried to storm the headquarters," Berjawi told El Nashra news website.
But Future MP Ammar Houri denied members of the party took part in the fighting.
Speaking to a local television channel, Houri said some residents had "come under attack," which led to the fighting.
One Beirut resident said he woke up early in the morning to the sound of small explosions and gunfire.
"I woke up suddenly and realized there was ongoing fighting near my area," said the resident, who goes by Abu Rabih and lives in Tayyouneh, at least three kilometers away from the site of the clashes.
In 2012, Future Movement supporters engaged in a similar firefight with members of Berjawi's party, killing three people and wounding 10. The clashes ended after Berjawi agreed to evacuate his office near the Arab University.
The hours-long fighting came after 10 days of fierce clashes between supporters and opponents of Assad in the northern city of Tripoli, which have so far killed 29 people and wounded over 100.
Repercussions of the crisis in Syria continue to play out in Lebanon, with a string of car bombs and clashes throughout the country linked to the fighting next door.