BEIRUT/TRIPOLI: Roads were blocked in cities across Lebanon Sunday for the third consecutive day in protest against the assassination of a senior intelligence official, as armed clashes in Tripoli left three dead.
Interior Minister Marwan Charbel called Sunday’s events “an emotional reaction” to Friday’s assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, the head of the Internal Security Forces Information Branch. Hasan was killed by a car bomb in the Ashrafieh neighborhood of Beirut.
“This is an emotional reaction to the martyrdom [of Hasan] ... God willing tomorrow [Monday] everything will be over,” he told The Daily Star.
Charbel said that the ISF and the Lebanese Army are taking the appropriate measures to address the situation.
“They are arresting anyone carrying arms and referring them to the judiciary, and they are re-opening all blocked roads,” Charbel said. He added that delays in clearing roads are the result of “prudence” by security forces in choosing the appropriate time to act.
Roads in Tripoli, Beirut and the highway connecting the capital to Sidon were blocked Sunday afternoon after Hasan’s funeral, which took place in downtown Beirut.
Media reports said that protesters in the coastal village of Wadi al-Zineh were shot and wounded. Other reports said that protesters near the town of Naameh, on the same highway between Beirut and Sidon, were stopping cars and examining their IDs.In the capital, the highway near the Cite Sportive stadium was blocked, as well as the Bshara al-Khoury Highway near Qasqas. Media reports said that armed men were out in the streets of Qasqas and Tariq al-Jdideh.
Gunmen in Tripoli opened fire in the air after Akkar Mufti Sheikh Ossama Rifai delivered a fiery speech during Hasan’s funeral, killing a 15-year-old resident of Jabal Mohsen, Rola Fakhro.
This sparked armed clashes between supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad in Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh, whose residents tend to support the uprising against Assad.
Nine-year-old Jana Kamaleddine of Riva was killed during the exchange of gunfire and RPGs, as was Jabal Mohsen resident Adnan Dawoud. Nayef Khalil, a Palestinian refugee from the outskirts of the Beddawi refugee camp, was wounded. Clashes intensified and bullets reached the highway that connects Tripoli to Akkar.
Meanwhile, around 50 people erected tents near Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Tripoli residence, vowing to stay until he resigns.
“From now on, we will not accept a Cabinet including criminals ruling the country,” Akkar MP Mouein Merhebi said during the protest. “If Prime Minister Mikati does not resign, then tomorrow we will start civil disobedience,” he added. Security Forces took strict precautions around Mikati’s house.
In Sidon, Future Movement partisans blocked roads in the city as opposition supporters in Beirut attempted to storm the Grand Serail.
The city’s MP Bahia Hariri called on her supporters to withdraw from the streets, saying she did not approve of their actions.
Earlier Sunday, a Lebanese man was attacked in his car near the Riviera Hotel on the seaside Corniche. He was caught between a group of around 15-20 young men, several of whom were carrying Amal and Syrian flags, chasing a smaller group of men.
The man, who identified himself as Ibrahim but did not want to give his last name, suffered injuries to his head and neck, after one of the men struck his car, smashing his window and hitting him. His wife was in the car at the time.
“I had no chance to protect myself or my wife. They wanted to fight. They want to make people afraid,” Ibrahim told The Daily Star.
He later reported the incident to a local police station, where he said he saw four of his attackers being released.
The Amal Movement acknowledged the attack, but denied that those responsible were affiliated with the party, saying that the flags had been planted on them.
Separately, a group of 10 to 12 armed men in the Tariq al-Jdideh neighborhood of Beirut opened fire on a car carrying two foreign women and a Lebanese man on their way back from the airport Sunday around 2:45 a.m., the driver of the car said.
Rabih, the driver, said the unidentified men sprayed his Kia Cerato with around 15 bullets, one of which went through both the pant legs of his jeans, and another lost momentum in his head rest. He said there were no injuries.
“I have no political affiliation. I have never voted. I’m a DJ,” he said. “I’m filled with anger.” – With additional reporting by Olivia Alabaster and Beckie Strum