SIDON, Lebanon: A scuffle late Thursday afternoon between supporters of Sheikh Ahmad Assir and motorists commuting to south Lebanon included the roughing up of two men followed later by the smashing of shop windows.
Security sources in this southern port city told The Daily Star Friday that later that night, rioters affiliated with Osama Saad’s Popular Nasserite Organization (PNO) smashed the windows of Islamists' shops.
The rioters, wielding wooden sticks and sharp objects, also hurled glass bottles at the car of Sheikh Mahmoud Samhoun as he passed through Qayaa near Sidon.
Earlier, the sources said at least two men were beaten, identifying them as Abu Ali Skaffi, a PNO supporter, and AFP photographer Mahmoud Zayyat.
The late-night attack on shop windows by the Nasserites was apparently undertaken to avenge the beating of Skaffi, who received several blows to the head during a fistfight with Assir supporters.
Skaffi had attempted to traverse the coastal road, only to be surprised by a group of Assir’s supporters, who had left their month-old sit-in on Sidon’s eastern highway and made for the city’s coastal road that links Sidon to the south.
The Assir partisans blocked Skaffi's way, and a fistfight ensued. Police intervened, dispersing the crowd and allowing Skaffi to continue.
But shortly afterward, Skaffi returned, in an apparent attempt to confront Assir's supporters. He got into a fight with policemen who were trying to push him away so as to keep him and Assir’s men separated.
Skaffi fell to the ground during the scuffle. When Zayyat attempted to take photos of him, he was manhandled by police.
Meanwhile, the pro-Assir demonstrators waved placards in support of President Michel Sleiman’s condemnatory stance on Syrian violations of Lebanese territory.
Sleiman asked Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour Monday to submit a letter of protest to Syria’s Ambassador Ali Abdel-Karim Ali over repeated Syrian breaches of Lebanon’s northern and eastern borders.
Assir’s sit-in, which has blocked a vital highway linking Beirut with south Lebanon since mid-June, has angered many merchants and businessmen.
Prominent Sidon figures have repeatedly urged the sheikh to cancel the protest, but to no avail.