Tripoli Escalation: New and Improved Weapons
By: Mohamed Nazzal
Published Monday, June 4, 2012
A political official in Jabal Mohsen in Tripoli tells Al-Akhbar that that fighters involved in clashes over the weekend used deadly weapons not seen in previous rounds of fighting.
“There is a fifth column,” may be the most famous phrase in Lebanon. Yesterday, it was even uttered by a security official in charge of the north of the country, commenting on the clashes in Tripoli over the weekend.
People concerned about Jabal Mohsen do not deny the possibility of the existence of such saboteurs. But they feel let down by the security services “who know of the existence of other columns that are not clandestine at all, are armed in public in Bab al-Tebbaneh, and nobody wants to stop them.”
Abdel Latif Saleh, an official in the Arab Democratic Party (ADP), spoke to Al-Akhbar about the clashes “that were quite vicious this time,” from the perspective of Jabal Mohsen.
He said it started last Friday when “the Friday sermons paved the way for the attack on Jabal Mohsen. They called for jihad against us in the mosques, specifically the al-Taqwa and al-Rahman mosques.”
The Jabal Mohsen-Bab al-Tebbaneh front was not necessarily calm following the clashes that took place in May. Inerga rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) kept falling here and there, from time to time.
By Friday midnight, “hails of bullets and RPGs fell on Jabal Mohsen without warning and without any clear response from our side, except a few times to stop the aggressors,” Saleh explained.
The next day, the area became “a real war zone. Even when [ADP vice president] Rifaat [Eid] was holding his press conference, we were being showered by rockets.”
In the press conference, Eid had “warned” that the situation could escalate. He used the phrase, “God bear witness that I have given notice.”
Some believe this means that Jabal Mohsen will not stand still anymore, especially following the withdrawal of army forces separating it from Bab al-Tebbaneh.
“That night was intense. It was open on all fronts. The fiercest was in the Mankoubin and al-Biqar neighborhoods,” Saleh continued. He believes “the other side broke the rules of the game this time.”
“In a serious development, an armed Salafi group attempted to storm Jabal Mohsen from the side of the Mankoubin neighborhood. But we faced them with all our force and inflicted on them great losses,” he said.
Following the attack, “every boy who could carry a gun and defend himself was in the street, where we remained until the morning.”
In addition to the qualitative development in the nature of the clashes in the area, there is also a shift in the quality of arms. Four years ago and the clashes that followed, mortar shells were never used. This time, they were used abundantly.
This is repeated by many sides in Jabal Mohsen and from outside the area, including several security officials. They are using 82mm rounds. If one of them falls on a house, it could kill everyone inside.
Moreover, Saleh said that “the Dragunov sniper rifle is no longer satisfactory for the other side. This time, they used more modern rifles, equipped with expensive and dangerous night vision.”
Almost all kinds of traditional weapons were used in the clashes in the last two days, with the exception of heavy artillery.
Observers spoke about 12.7mm machineguns, and sometimes 14.5mm. Flare bombs were also used. All of those were not used before.
Of course, there is no need to mention the great quantity of hand-grenades and RPGs, since they have become almost “routine.”
Three people in Jabal Mohsen were killed in the clashes, one fighter and two civilians: Haidar Dandachli, Haitham Abdel Latif, and Mohsen Dahek. This is in addition to around 10 injuries, taken to hospitals in Zgharta due to “the siege on Jabal Mohsen.”
It is worth noting that the ADP was absent from all the meetings held in Tripoli to calm the situation during the clashes.
This is including the meeting with political figures in Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s house and, later, the meeting between the interior minister Marwan Charbel and some of the city’s religious leaders.
Although the Bab al-Tebbaneh side was present, no representative of Jabal Mohsen was invited. ADP politburo member Ali Fodda found this to be peculiar.
“They would all be calling us. But, unfortunately, some might be ashamed of communicating with us or inviting us, for fear of losing some popularity,” Fodda says.
“Anyway, our position is clear and we will not beg anyone to be invited. But our hand will remain extended to everyone, for the sake of the city and all of Lebanon,” he adds.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.