TRIPOLI, Lebanon: One man was killed and three people, including two soldiers, were wounded in a shootout at a government hospital in Tripoli Wednesday, the Army said, adding to the already simmering tensions in the northern city.
In a related development, an official in Jabal Mohsen said masked gunmen had set up checkpoints around the neighborhood and were asking drivers for their identification documents and which sect they belonged to.
“We then immediately blocked the main entrance to Jabal Mohsen to protest what the Alawite residents are facing,” Abdel-Latif Saleh, the spokesman for Jabal Mohsen’s Arab Democratic Party said.
Witnesses said two people from Jabal Mohsen were wounded and one from Tripoli’s Riva neighborhood suffered gunshot wounds during the brief clash at the state hospital in Qibbeh.
The Army reported that two soldiers were wounded when gunmen fired shots in their direction at Qibbeh.
“Gunmen in Qibbeh fired shots using light weapons in the direction of a soldier as he was admitting his brother to the government hospital, wounding the two [soldiers] and a civilian,” the military’s statement said.
The injured civilian was identified as Talal Ajaya from Jabal Mohsen, who later succumbed to his wounds.
Residents of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh later exchanged fire, the Army added, prompting soldiers to raid the location of gunmen and arrest a number of suspects.
The military patrolled the streets and soldiers set up several checkpoints, the statement said.
However, Jihad Dandashi, a prominent figure from Riva, said one of his colleagues was wounded after a group of people from Jabal Mohsen fired shots in their direction at the medical facility.
Dandashi said the incident occurred while he and a group of friends were visiting a patient at the facility.
“We were visiting one of our guys who was suffering from burn [wounds] who [was admitted to the hospital] days ago. That’s when the men from the Jabal entered,” Dandashi told The Daily Star.
“Upon seeing us, they fired shots and one of our young men, Rabih Hafiza, was wounded.”
He added that his group was forced to respond in self-defense.
Saleh had a different version of the story. He described the incident as one in which two men from Jabal Mohsen were shot at and wounded by a group from Riva and several Salafists.
He said the two wounded men had been with a soldier they had transferred to the hospital for treatment.
“A Lebanese Army sergeant by the name of Taher Mohsen Shdeed suffered a sudden ailment and was transferred to the hospital,” Saleh said.
“Those who transferred him were surprised to see a group from Riva and Salafists entering the hospital and shooting at Youssef Mohsen Shdeed, who was wounded in his stomach ... and Mahdi Shdeed who was shot in his leg in front of soldiers,” he added.
One of the wounded was transferred to a hospital in Zghorta.
Saleh also said that prior to the shooting, a shell had landed near Manar Pharmacy in Jabal Mohsen.
He claimed that masked gunmen had set up checkpoints around the neighborhood and started asking drivers for their identification documents and which sect they belonged to.
Since the uprising in Syria began two years ago, Tripoli has witnessed recurrent fighting between Assad supporters in the predominantly Alawite Jabal Mohsen and his opponents in the adjacent, mainly Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh.