Military crackdown as battles continue in northern Lebanon
Published Thursday, May 17, 2012
The Lebanese military began a crackdown on violence in the northern city of Tripoli on Thursday afternoon, after ongoing battles killed a 13-year-old boy and left dozens more injured.
Abdel Rahim Mohammad Hamad was killed in ongoing skirmishes between pro and anti Syrian militias in the city, the National News Agency said.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati called on security forces to erect checkpoints in Tripoli on Thursday and said they should arrest anyone carrying arms in public.
The army has subsequently deployed in new areas and in greater numbers including Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, an Al-Akhbar correspondent in Tripoli said.
Violence broke out again on Wednesday after appearing to calm earlier in the week, with at least 11 people, including a Lebanese soldier, injured in the subsequent gun battles.
Heavy fighting was reported between the rival Jabal Mohsen and Bab el-Tebbaneh neighborhoods, the scene of bloody clashes that have so far left 11 people dead and at least 80 wounded since Saturday.
Two bombs hit Bab Al-Tabaneh on Wednesday evening, including one on Syria Street, the road that divides the two neighborhoods and where the Lebanese army is stationed.
“There were fierce gun battles (Wednesday) night on different fronts in the city as combatants exchanged mortar shells,” the NNA report said.
Elsewhere, a number of people continued to observe a sit-in in a central square, demanding the release of an Islamist leader who was arrested by security forces on Saturday.
Fighting initially erupted following the arrest of Shadi al-Mawlawi on allegations of having links to an unnamed terrorist organization.
Lebanon's Military Court has filed charges against Mawlawi and five others, and is proceeding with the case despite demands from Islamists in Tripoli for their immediate release.
The city's streets remain largely deserted as residents fear a serious deterioration in security, but the sit-in of Islamists and Syrian refugees at Al-Nour Square continues.
Interior Minister Marwan Charbel met with the protest leaders and said several Islamists would soon be released, but Mawlawi will have to face the charges filed against him.
"I confirm to all politicians and armed people that the state will soon address the dossier of Islamists detained in Roumieh jail. We have confidence in the justice system to settle this affair," the NNA quoted Charbel as saying.
The Saudi-backed March 14 coalition accused Syria on Wednesday of trying to drag Lebanon into its crisis.
"It is actually an attempt to make of Tripoli a zone of terrorism. It also aims at striking Lebanon's northern area which has welcomed and helped out the Syrian displaced," said March 14 figure Mustafa Alloush after the coalition held its regular weekly meeting.