Lebanon News

Tensions prevail in Baalbek in wake of botched kidnap plan

Crowds gather for Naji’s funeral at the Jalil Palestinian refugee camp near Baalbek.

BAALBEK, Lebanon: Tensions remained high in Baalbek following a series of armed clashes, the most recent of which claimed the lives of a child and an adult Thursday.

Ali Rajeh Jaafar was killed during a shootout in the neighborhood of Sharawneh in the city, the scene of similar previous clashes. A stray bullet from the clashes struck and killed 8-year-old Firas Naji, from the Jalil Palestinian refugee camp which is located near the city.

Security sources told The Daily Star that the violence began during a botched plan by members of the Jaafar clan to kidnap a member of the Rifai clan in Sharawneh.

Naji’s funeral procession was held noon Friday at the Jalil camp. Speaking at his funeral, Sheikh Raed Tallouzi said that Naji was a “martyr,” and said that arms should only be aimed at Israel, warning against strife inside the country. Jaafar was also laid to rest Friday.

Palestinian factions in the camp, which is home to around 10,000 Palestinian refugees, held meetings late into Thursday night in a bid to calm the situation in the camp and prevent acts of retaliation. Some of the camp residents argued that some of the gunfire was deliberately aimed at the camp, and there are fears that the clashes might take on sectarian undertones in the Shiite and Sunni neighborhoods in the city.

Another factor causing concern is that the Lebanese Army has been unable to stop violent incidents, despite deploying units and erecting checkpoints in Sharawneh and other locations in the city.

A number of Baalbek residents told The Daily Star that the recent clashes are starting to impact the city’s economy, with commercial and tourist activity slowing in the city, which is famous for its temple complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A Future Movement official from Baalbek who requested to remain anonymous urged government security and judicial bodies to step up their performance to put an end to security incidents which are impacting all aspects of life in the city.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 15, 2011, on page 2.




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