SIDON, Lebanon: Lebanese Army Intelligence arrested Friday two men who fled after being wounded in an overnight shootout between a Hezbollah-run group and the Popular Nasserite Organization in the southern city of Sidon, security sources said.
Meanwhile, the Future Movement of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya urged Lebanese authorities to protect Sidon.
Mahmoud Bazazo, a member of the Hezbollah-operated Resistance Companies, and Ahmad Raja Masrieh from the PNO, were identified as the two detained suspects, said the sources, who spoke to The Daily Star on condition of anonymity.
The arrests were made during a manhunt by the Lebanese Army and police following Thursday night’s shootout on Sidoun Street that claimed the life of Mohammad Dirar, a member in the Resistance Companies.
A chase is still under way for at least two other men wounded in the heavy exchange of machine-gun fire, the sources said.
They said security forces found late Thursday a car laden with an assortment of weapons.
“The occupants of the car apparently parked the vehicle and fled the scene,” one source said.
Investigators were documenting the crime scene Friday, collecting shell casings and examining cars damaged during the shootout which broke out around 6 p.m. Thursday in the Sidon district of Sidoun.
Bullet holes marked at least 10 vehicles, three of which sustained heavy damage.
The shooting Thursday sent tenants diving for cover as bullets pierced the walls of some apartments on Sidoun road. No one was hurt.
“Bullets entered our home. I hid under the bed,” said 9-year-old Husam Idawi as he and a bunch of boys fiddled with empty bullet shells Friday morning.
The Resistance Companies has recruited members from political groups allied with Hezbollah in Sidon, such as the Popular Nasserite Organization, which has generated tension between the two sides.
A similar incident took place on New Year’s Eve, when the same two groups traded gunfire that left no casualties.
The Future Movement, in a statement published Friday, accused Hezbollah of being behind Thursday’s shooting.
“Hezbollah wants to crush Sidon’s security and its willpower by creating tensions via gathering scattered allies and turning them into tools to implement its project which aims to control the city and keep it a tense arena,” the Future Movement said.
The statement, issued by the Movement’s Sidon/south Lebanon office, urged the Lebanese Army and the Internal Security Forces to put an end to “illegal weapons” in Sidon and "strike with an iron fist" those trying to destabilize security in the city.
The Future Movement also demanded that security forces apprehend the perpetrators of Thursday’s clash.
Separately, the political head of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya in Sidon, Bassam Hammoud, warned the group would take action if "the Lebanese Army, security forces and the judiciary failed to shoulder responsibility to protect the city and its residents."
“Being aware of the delicate political and security situation Lebanon and the region is going through, we have repeatedly appealed [to authorities], but that does not mean that we should accept what is going on from now on,” he said.
“We will call on Sidon's population to take to the streets if we do not find serious, real and honest solutions that will eliminate the fear of strife and chaos," Hammoud added.