TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Intermittent sniper fire and fierce overnight clashes between rival neighborhoods in the troubled northern city of Tripoli dashed hopes Sunday for an end to the fighting that has claimed 29 lives so far.
Two people, including a 12-year-old boy, were killed and one person was wounded late Saturday, reportedly when a personal dispute escalated into armed clashes in Bab al-Tabbaneh.
Eissa al-Sayad Akla and Omar Ali al-Asaad were shot and killed while Khaled al-Zaghloul remained in critical condition.
The incident raised the death toll from 10 days of fighting to 29, the highest number of casualties from a single round of fighting since the uprising in Syrian began in 2011, eventually spilling over into Tripoli where supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad now regularly engage in gunbattles.
Fighters from the predominantly Sunni district of Bab al-Tabbaneh, which largely supports the armed Syrian opposition, have engaged in 20 rounds of clashes with their rivals in the Alawite Jabal Mohsen, which enjoys close ties to the Syrian regime.
Rumors circulated late Saturday that head of the pro-Assad Arab Democratic Party Ali Eid had died, prompting residents in Bab al-Tabbaneh to fire celebratory gunfire for at least an hour.
As news broke that Eid was still alive, Jabal Mohsen fighters fired shots into the air, which triggered hours-long clashes in several neighborhoods in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city.
In the early hours of the morning, people were seen taking cover from snipers while witnesses told The Daily Star that the Lebanese Army had scaled back its patrols.
Tripoli MP Mohammad Kabbara said the government has devised a plan to contain the violence in the area under the auspices of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, after a truce called for by the city’s lawmakers fell on deaf ears.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam said that the government was working on a plan to address security there.
“The situation in Tripoli is complicated and it is an accumulation of many issues. Resolving the situation cannot be done with just a statement or a stance,” Salam told Ash-Sharq Radio Station over the weekend.
“I hope that Tripoli residents can be a little more patient with us until we achieve something for the city but at the end of the day, only security institutions can reign over Tripoli,” he added.
Civil society groups held a demonstration Saturday to protest the repeated rounds of clashes that have plagued the city for three years, holding security agencies and politicians responsible for the situation.
The Gathering of Tripoli Civil Society Groups said political parties were to blame for the “tragic reality of the city,” asking officials to lift “political and sectarian” cover for perpetrators of violence and to prepare a city-wide reconciliation between Jabal Mohsen and surrounding areas.
In a statement, the gathering also asked for development projects to address the high level of poverty among residents and also called for a resolution to the issue of detained Islamists in Lebanese prisons.