Lebanon News

Rival Tripoli groups pledge to uphold truce

Soldiers patrol the streets of Bab al-Tabbaneh. (The Daily Star/Antoine Amrieh)

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: The Lebanese Army brokered a fragile truce in Tripoli Tuesday, receiving assurances from rival groups that they would work toward a cease-fire and end two days of clashes that left at least 10 dead.

The streets of the city, however, saw little traffic, as schools and commercial centers remained shut due to the recent street battles.

Clashes between rival neighborhoods in the northern city, which also left more than 60 people wounded, were sparked by the assassination of the head of Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan.

The killing has given rise to sporadic fighting across the country, while the opposition March 14 and the Hezbollah-dominated March 8 government are caught in a political standoff.

The Army said Tuesday that two people were wounded on Tripoli’s Syria Street, where sniping interrupted the cease-fire throughout the day. The wounded, identified by the Army as Maysaloun al-Dansh and Wael Aitawi, were both hospitalized at the Islamic Charity Hospital of Tripoli.

The hospital’s administration told The Daily Star that 23 people had been brought there since the clashes erupted. Four of them died after arrival, a hospital official said.

Residents of the predominantly Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen were taken to hospitals outside the city.

Meanwhile, the March 14 opposition continued its sit-in near Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s residence in Tripoli and officials in the coalition gathered Tuesday evening to agree on a program for their movement against the government.

Organizers of the sit-in distributed terms and conditions for those who would like to participate in the protest.

The sit-in, which was first endorsed by Akkar MP Moueen Merhebi, now has the support of most officials in the Future Movement and March 14.

As new tents were set up in front of Mikati’s residence, former MP Mustafa Alloush sat with protesters and called on them to remain peaceful and patient in achieving their goal of toppling the government.

Alloush said the protest against the government will continue despite the violent clashes that have erupted.

The plan drew criticism from Sports and Youth Minister Faisal Karami, who accused March 14 of caring only about returning to power.

“This campaign of bringing down the government is simply another way of saying go away and give me your place,” Karami said in a statement.

The minister also slammed March 14 for what he described as the alliances’ attempt to exploit Hasan’s funeral service for political gain.

“The assassination of the head of the Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces, Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, is a great loss for the nation. A man of his importance leaves a big security gap that cannot be easily replaced,” he added.

Karami said the opposition’s demand for the government’s resignation, if fulfilled, would only add a political vacuum to the security gap created by Hasan’s assassination.

A strong ally of the Syrian regime, Karami slammed March 14 officials for allowing demonstrators carrying the Syrian revolutionary flag to try to enter Beirut’s Grand Serail.

“The attempt to storm the government with the joint symbols of the Lebanese Forces and the Syrian revolutionary flags will be recorded by history as a shame for this coalition,” Karami said.

In 2005, Karami’s father, former Prime Minister Omar Karami, stepped down following mass demonstrations sparked by the assassination of his predecessor Rafik Hariri.

For his part, Minieh MP Ahmad Fatfat said the international community supports the stability of Lebanon and not the current Cabinet.

“The Lebanese people themselves decide what they want and I am sure the international community does not wish for the government to resign – but they support stability and not the government,” Fatfat said.

According to Fatfat, the government’s presence is contributing to Lebanon’s instability and not the other way around.

“We saw it in different regions in the country, so how can the international community support the government?” he said.

Fatfat added that the media outlets allied with the government are trying to portray the world’s support for Lebanon as support for Mikati’s Cabinet.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 24, 2012, on page 2.




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