BEIRUT: One hundred people were arrested in recent days in Beirut and Tripoli for carrying arms and taking part in violent clashes, the Lebanese Army said in a statement Tuesday.
The Army said that 34 Syrians and four Palestinians were among those arrested on the streets of Beirut and Tripoli in the aftermath of the assassination of head of the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan.
“In the course of the Army’s continuing crackdown on armed individuals in Beirut and Tripoli to restore calm in the cities, Army units have arrested since Sunday 100 people including 34 Syrians and four Palestinians and confiscated from them arms and ammunition,” the Army’s statement said.
Fierce clashes in Beirut and Tripoli began following Hasan’s funeral at Martyrs Square Sunday. While fighting in Tripoli pitted opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad from Bab al-Tabbaneh against Assad supporters from Jabal Mohsen, clashes in the capital’s streets were mainly between civilian gunmen and Army units.
Ahmad Qwaider, a Palestinian who allegedly opened fire on a military patrol in Beirut’s Qasqas neighborhood, was killed during a confrontation with the Army.
According to the Army’s statement, 15 soldiers were also wounded during the crackdown.
“Fifteen members of the Army, including two officers suffered various types of injures after the gunmen opened fire,” the statement added.
The Army issued a firm warning Monday to gunmen to withdraw from the streets and stop blocking roads against traffic, describing such behavior as a “red line” for the Army.
President Michel Sleiman praised the army’s crackdown on gunmen and said that the Army’s plan for safeguarding the country’s stability and security proves once again that the Army alone can guarantee safety for all Lebanese.
“For this reason, people who wish well for the country should take this opportunity and work in a spirit of dialogue and openness to walk through this difficult period and distance the country from the unrest in the region,” Sleiman said after meeting Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn at Baabda Palace.
Sleiman also praised Army leadership for acting swiftly to stop the violent clashes. He said that the government fully backs the army’s crackdown on gunmen.
In a telephone call earlier Tuesday, Arab League President Nabil al-Arabi told Sleiman that the league is ready to assist Lebanon in whatever way.
Arabi, who conveyed his condolences to Sleiman for Hasan’s assassination, reiterated the league’s support for Lebanon’s stability and sovereignty.
Tensions remained high in Beirut Tuesday following the funeral ceremony for Qwaider, who was killed near the Beirut neighborhood of Tariq al-Jadideh, a Sunni stronghold.
Rounds of gunshots were fired in the air by Qwaider’s friends and family members as they carried his body from Tariq al-Jadideh to the Qasheqji Mosque in Qasqas.
Concerned by the sounds of the gunfire, soldiers mobilized and were on high alert, while fear among the residents of the capital that the clashes had restarted.