TRIPOLI/BEIRUT: Tensions ran high in Tripoli Friday night after at least 20 fighters from the city were killed in an ambush by the Syrian army in the town of Tal Kalakh near the border with Lebanon, a Lebanese security source told The Daily Star.
The men are from the Sunni neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and the Mankoubeen, added the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Most of the dead are from the Obeid and Srour families.
The Lebanese Army deployed in several areas of the city in anticipation of a possible escalation after gunshots were fired from the Sunni neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh toward the Alawite Jabal Mohsen area.
The residents of the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood are staunch supporters of rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad, while most residents of Jabal Mohsen are supporters of the regime.
Twelve armored vehicles were positioned in Al-Nour square following rumors that people from Bab al-Tabbaneh were planning to attack an office for the pro-Assad Syrian Social Nationalist Party.
Alawite leader Rifaat Eid urged his supporters to practice self-restraint and refrain from reacting to “provocations.”
Eid, who is currently on a visit to the United States, called on his supporters to abide by the instructions of the Lebanese Army.
Talha Kleib, an activist from Tal Kalakh familiar with the operation, said the Lebanese fighters had been killed between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m Friday.
He added that two Syrians from Tal Kalakh and Abou al-Mashaib, who acted as their guides, were also killed in the operation.
Kleib said he believed the Lebanese group had been ambushed after it walked a good distance into Syrian territory, adding that he suspected that there may have been a tipoff to the Syrian regime “because the guides with them knew the roads well.”
Earlier Friday, Agence France Presse, quoting a Lebanese security source and an Islamist leader, reported that 17 young men who had gone to Syria to fight with the rebels were all killed.
The security source said that he had been informed of the deaths of the men “who went to Syria to fight with the rebels and were all killed in a trap in Homs province,” which borders Lebanon. The Islamist leader, for his part, told AFP the young Islamists had come from different parts of the city and had “left Tripoli this morning [Friday] and were killed in an ambush in Tal Kalakh by regime forces.”
Kleib, the activist, could not confirm whether the group had consisted of fighters. “They were transporting humanitarian aid and I honestly don’t know whether there were fighters among them,” he told The Daily Star.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a group of 30 rebels “were caught in an ambush by government troops in the area of Tal Sarin near the town of Tal Kalakh,” AFP reported. – With AFP