People carry children as they flee areas of clashes between the Lebanese Army and Islamist militants in Tripoli. (The Daily Star/Antoine Amrieh)
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To the din of gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades reverberating across the city of Tripoli, some 50 shop owners assembled at a cafe near a historic building, where the late former President Camille Chamoun once lived.The merchants were there to assess the heavy damage caused to their stores by three days of fierce fighting between the Lebanese Army and Islamist militants that has left at least 27 people dead. A Lebanese Army armored personnel carrier was stationed in the middle of the street leading to Tripoli's labyrinth-like old souks, the scene of pitched street battles between the Army and ISIS-inspired militants, to prevent the seemingly jittery and angry merchants from heading to inspect the damage at their shell-riddled stores. The battle is still raging and the Army officer's orders are not to let anyone [into the area] except journalists and ambulances," a soldier standing near the APC told the shop owners.The merchants' talk focused mainly on the size of damage and financial losses incurred to their stores located deep within the old souks – which include the gold souk, the spices souk, the Church Street and Bazarkan souk – as a result of the fighting. As the fighting between the Army and militants quickly spread deep into the old souks, engulfing even the narrow alleyways, and the gunmen fired RPGs at military posts and set shops ablaze, the shop owners became increasingly worried about the heavy damage caused to their properties.
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