Last updated: 3 June, 2012

Lebanon army restores calm after Syria-linked clashes

Lebanese soldiers and security forces entered areas of the northern city of Tripoli on Sunday to restore calm after deadly clashes between pro- and anti-Syrian regime gunmen, a security official said.

“Security forces and the army entered the Bab al-Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen districts… where there were no armed elements visible, complete calm having returned on all main roads,” the National News Agency (NNA) quoted local security official Bassam Ayyoubi as saying.

Earlier on Sunday, a security official told AFP: “There was fierce fighting throughout the night, which killed two people and left 12 injured, bringing the death toll since Saturday to 14 dead and 48 wounded.”

There had also been a great deal of material damage, the official added.

An AFP correspondent reported that the army was in Bab al-Tebbaneh, a mostly Sunni Muslim community that supports Syria’s anti-regime opposition, and in Jabal Mohsen, which is populated mainly by pro-Damascus Alawites.

The army deployed after a meeting in which Prime Minister Najib Mikati met leaders of the city and security heads at his home in Tripoli to reach an accord on the implementation of security measures and removal of arms.

The NNA reported that several shells “fell during the night in areas relatively distant from the scene of the clashes.”

The army and internal security forces were instructed to “take immediate measures to stop the clashes in Tripoli without discrimination.”

The 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.”

A statement from the meeting stressed that “all leaders of the city withdraw all political cover for the abusers of security and stability” and urged a “removal of all forms of weaponry from streets and neighborhoods.”

Sectarian violence has flared several times in Tripoli since the revolt broke out in neighbouring Syria in March last year, including street battles in May that left 10 dead.

Bab al-Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen have been gripped by frequent fighting, reflecting a split between Lebanon’s parties where the opposition backs the revolt in Syria while a ruling coalition led by Hezbollah supports the Damascus regime.

The army said two Lebanese men detained in the east near the border with Syria were freed on Sunday.

The NNA had reported on Wednesday that the two were seized by five armed men who entered Lebanon from Syria.