TRIPOLI/BEIRUT: Calm returned to the northern city of Tripoli Sunday after days of clashes between the predominantly Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen and the mainly Sunni district of Bab al-Tabbaneh that claimed the lives of three people and led to the wounding of over 20.
Among those killed in Saturday’s violence was a man identified as Walid Bathish, who was pronounced dead at the Muslim Charitable Hospital after suffering from critical wounds.
Four people are receiving treatment at the hospital, including a 20-year-old who is believed to be in critical condition.
The Lebanese Army, which stepped in Friday to stem the violence, saw at least six of its members wounded.
Stores that had closed as a result of the clashes in the rival neighborhoods, known for sporadic violence due to sectarian and political divisions, reopened and a number of families who fled the violence have returned.
The Lebanese Army vowed Saturday to crackdown on individuals involved in the incidents and said in a statement it had apprehended a number of armed men and confiscated ammunition.
Security sources told The Daily Star the Lebanese Army, which deployed eight Armored Personnel Carriers Saturday, has been ordered to arrest on sight anyone carrying weapons and that patrols, both on foot and in military vehicles, are ongoing in the Bab Al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen areas.
The clashes that flared up three days ago have raised concerns that the crisis in neighboring Syria might spill over into Lebanon.
Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour, in an interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai published Sunday, acknowledged that events in the north were likely linked to the crisis in Lebanon’s neighbor.
“I believe that the security incidents in north Lebanon are no doubt a result of the prevailing situations in Syria and north Lebanon,” Mansour said.
Meanwhile, Mufti of Tripoli and North Lebanon Sheikh Malek Shaar, in an interview with local An-Nahar newspaper published Sunday, said there would be no final solution to the problem in Tripoli until the city was demilitarized.
“There will be no final solution as long as there are weapons allowed and there are people bringing in hundreds of thousands of ammunition to the north,” Shaar told the daily.
“The state has to bring the situation under control so that there are no more arms outside its jurisdiction.”
Shaar also called for a meeting between Muslim scholars in the north in a bid “to determine the northern region’s position regarding several issues, particularly events in Syria.”
“It would then not be permissible for any Muslim scholar to give an opinion that contradicts the main principles we would agree on,” Shaar told the local newspaper.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati, speaking in Paris Saturday, voiced confidence that the army would resolve the unrest, adding that he was in contact with army officials.
“The Lebanese Army, its abilities and leadership we have faith in, is fulfilling its role ... I am certain that the situation will be under control and the army will restore order,” Mikati said.
Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani described Saturday the clashes as worrisome and as an attempt to incite strife.
"He urged the Lebanese Army to swiftly bring the area under its control and put an end to the violence in a bid to strengthen civil peace and national unity," Qabbani’s press office quoted him as saying Saturday.
He also warned against similar security breaches, which he said could impact negatively on the situation in the country.
In a separate incident Saturday morning, one man – identified as Neeman Dalati – was killed and three others were wounded after an arms depot exploded in the Abi Samraa area in Tripoli. – With additional reporting by Dana Khraiche and Thomas El-Basha