TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Fighting raged Monday in the northern city of Tripoli between the rival neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh, raising the number of fatalities from clashes that erupted over the weekend to seven, security sources said.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said more than 20 people were wounded as a result of the clashes between Jabal Mohsen, residents of which support Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Bab al-Tabbaneh, which largely supports the uprising in Lebanon’s neighbor.
The Lebanese Army said in a statement that it by Monday afternoon it had taken control of most of the fighting fronts except for Talaat al-Omari, Souk al-Qameh and Souk al-Khodra.
The fighting is dispersed around Jabal Mohsen.
Army patrols entered the volatile Syria Street in Bab al-Tabbaneh after a meeting of several dignitaries and an Army officer at Future Movement MP Mohammad Kabbara’s residence ended with a call for the Army to restore order in the city.
Gunmen opened fire Sunday in the air after a fiery speech by Akkar Mufti Sheikh Ossama Rifai in Beirut during the funeral of police Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, killing a 15-year-old resident of Jabal Mohsen. The death of Rola Fakhro triggered the armed clashes between the rival neighborhoods.
Assad supporter Rifaat Eid, the head of the Arab Democratic Party, urged the Lebanese Army Monday to respond to the sources of fire and take control of the situation, the sources said.
The military was out en masse in Tripoli’s main Nour Square to prevent any possible escalation by Future Movement supporters who have set up at least 10 tents outside Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s residence.
The tents are part of a sit-in launched Sunday by Akkar MP Mouin Merhebi, a member of the Future parliamentary bloc.
The sit-in gained strength Monday, as supporters of Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya and partisans of former Tripoli MP Misbah al-Ahdab joined.
Merhebi told those participating in the sit-in that its main aim is to pressure Hezbollah to lay down its arms.
“We will continue this protest until we eliminate [Hezbollah’s] arms, and then force the government to resign,” he was quoted by a protester as saying.
Merhebi said more such sit-ins will be held in other areas across Lebanon.
“Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri had always demanded this government step down, but nothing was really done on the ground to achieve this goal. But following the assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, all security agencies under this government are now under Hezbollah’s control. This is a situation we cannot put up with,” Merhebi said.
He criticized foreign ambassadors for voicing their support for Mikati:
“They are preventing the ousting of this government the same way they are preventing the fall of the Syrian regime. They do not know more than we do when it comes to our local affairs and we do not take instructions from anybody.”
U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly and the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting with President Michel Sleiman Monday.
Plumbly said after the meeting the current government should continue in order to preserve stability and security in Lebanon.
Earlier Monday, Merhebi took part in a meeting of the National Islamic Gathering at Kabbara’s residence.
The meeting was also attended by MPs Khaled al-Daher and Samir al-Jisr, officials from Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya and several clerics.
Speaking on behalf of the Gathering, Kabbara called on the Army and security forces to assume responsibility in preserving security, restricting the movement of militants, and restoring order to the city so that normal life could be resumed before Friday’s holiday.
Kabbara, reading a statement after the meeting, called for Mikati’s Cabinet to resign, and for the formation of a “salvation” government to protect the country and end the current situation.
“We will use all peaceful ways in Parliament to oust the government,” the MP said.
The statement urged the citizens of Tripoli to cooperate with the Army and security forces.
Brig. Gen. Amer al-Hasan, Army intelligence chief in the north, attended part of the meeting after which the Army deployed heavily in the city. It set up checkpoints in several areas, including on all roads leading to Nour Square on Tripoli’s southern entrance.
Youth and Sports Minister Faysal Karami, speaking from his residence in Tripoli, said that calls for civil disobedience are aimed against the city of Tripoli and its citizens.
“The call for civil disobedience is being imposed on the city and the residents. I am positive that the people of Tripoli will not support such a call,” the minister said.
Karami said the streets were full of militants who were firing random gunshots and terrorizing residents.