BAALBEK, Lebanon: Hezbollah’s deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem said Monday his party was wronged in the dispute that took place in Baalbek over the weekend and resulted in four deaths, including two party members. “Hezbollah was the afflicted party in this incident because it was assaulted at its checkpoint,” he said at a graduation ceremony at UNESCO Palace.
He said the Baalbek incident, which took place over the weekend, was a personal matter.
“Unfortunately, there are advocates for sedition who light a sectarian fire out of nothing,” the Hezbollah deputy head said, adding that the clash was not sectarian-based, but a personal dispute with a family.
Qassem said that Sunni and Shiite leaders in Baalbek worked together to end the fatal dispute through dialogue and understanding.
“Hezbollah has continuously worked to avoid sectarian strife, and will always do so no matter the cost, whether it requires sacrifice or patience,” Qassem said, stressing that the party has always worked to unify the country’s Muslims and Christians.
The city of Baalbek experienced calm for a second day Monday following the clash between Hezbollah members and members from the Sunni Shiyyah family over the weekend.
Owners came out to the souk district to inspect their shops after several had been set on fire following the dispute. The blaze extended to several Shiite and Sunni neighborhoods in the city.
Gunbattles erupted Saturday morning between Hezbollah fighters and members of the Shiyyah family after a dispute in Baalbek’s Al-Qalaa marketplace, one of the city’s main shopping areas.
Several hours of fighting ensued, killing two Hezbollah members and two gunmen and wounding five others.
The Army was deployed to restore stability to the area.
Hezbollah decided to hand over two of its checkpoints in Baalbek to the military to help restore calm.
The clashes resulted in heavy damages to vehicles and properties, including mosques and other buildings in the surrounding neighborhoods.
All schools have remained closed and classes will not resume until calm is fully restored.
A funeral was also held for victim Mohammad Ali Solh, who was injured in his home by a Hezbollah sniper and succumbed to his wounds. Solh, 23, was an Army soldier.
Baalbek-Hermel Mufti Sheikh Khaled Solh was present at the funeral, as were Col. Samir Mashmoushi, representing the Army and other military figures, as well as Future movement representatives and other religious officials.
Mufti Solh stressed that the families in Baalbek were not part of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, but they were instead true Lebanese citizens.
“We know for sure that [the Saleh] home and other homes have sacrificed themselves for Lebanon and sacrificed martyrs and many wounded for this country,” he said.
“Therefore we hope all politicians will take into consideration that what happened in Baalbek is not an individual occurrence, but a conspiracy against this country.”
Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi’s representative Col. Mashmoushi expressed his condolences to the family and stressed that the military lost a good soldier.
Mohammad Ali Solh has won several medals and received praise from Kahwagi on a number of occasions.