Last updated: 3 June, 2012

New Syria-linked clashes in Lebanon as army deploys

New clashes broke out Sunday between pro- and anti-Syrian regime gunmen in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli despite the deployment of the army, a security official said.

“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,” the official told AFP, adding there was great material damage.

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

The army deployed after a meeting in which Prime Minister Najib Mikati met with 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 correspondent said heavy clashes abated somewhat around dawn but had not stopped.

The National News Agency 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” during a meeting at night under the auspices of the premier, who hails from Tripoli.

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 issued 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.”

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel announced that “all parties agree that the army and internal security forces should enter the areas of the clashes and the security plan to halt the unrest will commence at 5:00 am (0200 GMT)” on Sunday.

The exchange of fire has escalated since it began at around midnight Friday and continued intermittently through Saturday, including mortar fire.

Sectarian violence has flared on a number of occasions in Tripoli since the revolt broke out in neighbouring Syria in March last year, including deadly 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.