TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Three people, including a child, were killed in the northern city of Tripoli Wednesday during a new bout of clashes linked to the ongoing war in Syria.
Ahmad Khaled Sayyed, 11, died as a result of sniper fire in the largely Sunni Tripoli neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh.
Mahmoud Fakhreddine, 19, was also critically injured by the sniper fire in the neighborhood and was transferred to the Islamic Hospital.
Two others, Hasan Saleh Mazloum and Wadad Nasser, were killed during a brutal attack near the city’s Maaloula roundabout.
Mazloum was driving near the roundabout when unidentified gunmen opened fire on his vehicle, which spiraled out of control into a vegetable cart on the side of road. Mazloum, an Alawite, was then dragged out of his car, onto the street and brutally beaten.
Onlookers managed to get Mazloum to a local hospital after the assailants left but the man later succumbed to his injuries.
Nasser, a passerby, was buying her vegetables from a cart that was ravaged by Mazloum’s car after he was hit.
Residents of the Akkar town of Hissa – Mazloum’s hometown – briefly closed off the main highway to protest Mazloum’s death.
Attacks on members of Tripoli’s Alawite sect have been on the rise ever since members of the Arab Democratic Party, based in Jabal Mohsen, were implicated in the August explosions targeting the city’s Al-Salam and Al-Taqwa mosques.
Fighters in Jabal Mohsen, a predominantly Alawite neighborhood, have also frequently clashed with rival gunmen in Bab Al-Tabbaneh in fighting linked to the ongoing conflict in neighboring Syria.
Following the shooting Wednesday, most shops in Bab al-Tabbaneh closed and residents stayed home fearing renewed clashes.
As The Daily Star went to press, sniper fire was still ongoing, particularly in the Al-Zahiriya neighborhood and all the way up to the Abu Ali roundabout and Maaloula.
A shell also landed by Al-Rahman Mosque on Syria Street.
At least 20 rounds of fighting have erupted between the rival neighborhoods since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011.
In a bid to curb the cycle of violence in the city, the government decided in December to place Tripoli under the command of the Army for a period of six months, but the plan has been undermined by two rounds of fighting this year.
Justice Minister Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi announced Wednesday that he and Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas had discussed the formation of a plan encompassing the political, security, development and economic aspects of the city.
Speaking following a meeting with Derbas and Former MP Abdel-Majid Rafei in Tripoli, Rifi said the aim was not only to end the ongoing rounds of clashes, but “to get out of this major cycle.”
He said there was a plan to revive the port in the northern city, adding that the city had been abandoned for “decades.”
“Tripoli needs to address the problems associated with its security, development, economy, social, and education,” Rafei said.
For his part, Derbas said the meeting was an opportunity to discuss Tripoli’s concerns and find solutions to its deteriorating security and economy.
The renewed efforts to revitalize Tripoli come just a day after a Syrian refugee mother of four set herself on fire at a U.N. registration center in the city, according to witnesses and the UNHCR.
According to Abu Riad al-Amudi, a cart vendor who often works near the center, a woman dressed in black from head to toe began to shout: “For three days I have been coming here to get food assistance for me and my four children. Every time, I get turned away and promised aid if I come back the next day. But these promises are empty.”
“Then, with her kids standing right next to her, she took a small plastic bottle out of her bag, and poured the contents over her head and clothes. The bottle contained diesel. She took out a lighter and set herself on fire,” Amudi said, visibly shaken.
The United Nations refugee agency confirmed the incident, saying the woman, in her 50s, had been hospitalized suffering severe burns.