BEIRUT: Alawite Islamic Council head sheikh Assad Assi warned Thursday that residents of the pro-Syrian regime neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen in north Lebanon have had enough.
“Enough is enough. Strife has now become active and we have to defend ourselves,” Assi said in a statement read on television.
He said President Michel Sleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi are responsible for Tripoli’s stability.
Assi said the Alawites in Lebanon would continue backing President Bashar Assad.
“We stand by Syria because we noticed that the army holds on to the regime,” he said.
Assi said the minority Alawite community would support the Lebanese Army on condition that they protect the various sects.
His remarks came a day after a shootout at a public hospital in Qibbeh, Tripoli, left one person dead and 10 people wounded, including two Lebanese Army soldiers.
The Army said Thursday one of two key suspects in the shootout has been arrested.
“Following a series of raids, one of the main suspects in the shooting – Jihad Dandashi – was arrested,” a statement from the Lebanese military said.
It said an interrogation of Dandashi is under way, adding that the Army is searching for the remaining suspects involved in the shootout at the state-run hospital in the neighborhood of Qibbeh.
Wednesday’s fatality was identified as Talal Ajaya, from Jabal Mohsen.
Dandashi, a militant commander in the Riva area of Qibbeh, said Wednesday that a group of men from Jabal Mohsen had wounded one of his comrades at the medical facility.
“We were visiting one of our men 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,” Dandashi said, adding that his group was forced to respond in self-defense.
The Army said two troopers were wounded when gunmen fired at a soldier who was transporting his brother to hospital.
A clash ensued after the shootout between residents from Jabal Mohsen, a mainly Alawite neighborhood that strongly supports President Bashar Assad, and nearby Bab al-Tabbaneh, a mainly Sunni neighborhood that backs the uprising against the embattled Syrian leader.
Lebanese soldiers were seen patrolling the streets of Tripoli Thursday to prevent any violence.
In a related incident Wednesday, an official in Jabal Mohsen said masked gunmen had set up checkpoints around the area, 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.