Tense calm returns to Lebanon's Tripoli

Published Monday, June 4, 2012

A state of cautious calm prevailed in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Monday after fierce clashes over the weekend claimed the lives of 15 people and wounded over 60.

Banks and major markets in the Tripoli closed their doors in mourning of the victims, in compliance with the request of civil society organizations, the municipality of Tripoli and the commerce and industry chamber in the north, Lebanon's National News Agency (NNA) reported.

Minor disturbances were reported overnight, including a suspected vandal attack at a library in Al-Kobbeh. The building, which faces the Lebanese University, was set ablaze by arsonists, an NNA correspondent reported.

Gunmen from the Jabal Mohsen district, home to the Alawi sect of Syrian President Bashar Assad, have fought on-off skirmishes over the past few weeks with residents of Bab al-Tabbaneh, who are Sunni Muslims.

Clashes erupted again over the weekend without any clear cause, highlighting the high tension running in the area.

The situation remains delicate and tense, and any minor incident could trigger a new round of fighting, an Al-Akhbar correspondent in Tripoli said.

Army and internal security forces were deployed to the area on Sunday morning in a bid to restore calm to the city, following calls from Interior Minister Marwan Charbel to stop the aggression and implement the security plan.

Security forces were told to "strike with an iron fist and to deal firmly and decisively with those tampering with security and stability of the city," stated the NNA.

Sectarian violence has flared on a number of occasions in Tripoli since the revolt broke out in neighboring Syria in March last year, including deadly street battles in May that left 10 dead.

The impoverished neighborhoods have long-standing grievances separate from the Syria conflict, but the uprising threatens to ferment strife among Lebanon's population.

Security sources confirmed to Al-Akhbar that implementation of the second phase of the security plan, which consists of removing all barricades and entering the streets in the areas of clashes, will not take effect before a complete ceasefire and the withdrawal of all armed men from the streets.

(Al-Akhbar, NNA)

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