25 Dead, 175 Hurt as Tripoli Fighting Enters 9th Day amid Call for Unilateral Ceasefire

The northern city of Tripoli was witnessing fierce clashes on Friday as the casualty toll from nine days of fighting rose to at least 25 dead and 175 wounded amid a call for a unilateral ceasefire and intensive political contacts to end the violence.

"After we held contacts with the army command in the North, we asked the leaders of Bab al-Tabbaneh and the neighboring areas to cease fire starting 10:00 PM and the army must respond to any source of gunfire," MP Mohammed Kabbara said after an emergency meeting for the Islamic National Gathering at his residence.

But Ziad Allouki, the chief of an armed group in Bab al-Tabbaneh, told LBCI TV: "We're not concerned with any ceasefire or with Kabbara's meeting."

However, LBCI later reported that Allouki and Saad al-Masri, another top militant, had urged their supporters to cease fire after agreeing on the truce "with Bab al-Tabbaneh's residents, not with the politicians."

Earlier, state-run National News Agency said the casualty toll from nine days of clashes hit 25 dead and 175 injured by Friday evening, following the death of Omar al-Khaledi in Bab al-Tabbaneh.

“Clashes have escalated in Tripoli's Souk al-Qameh and Syria Street and three shells are exploding every five minutes,” al-Jadeed television reported in the afternoon.

NNA said four people were wounded when a mortar shell struck a building in the Jabal Mohsen neighborhood, identifying them as Alaa Abdul Rahman, Ahmed Mohammed Mohammed, Adnan al-Saqqa and Hafez Mohammed.

“A mortar shell hit a house in Jabal Mohsen, leaving four children wounded, one critically,” Abdul Latif Saleh, a spokesman for the Arab Democratic Party -- the main armed and political force in the district – told al-Jadeed.

He told LBCI TV that 82-mm mortar shells were targeting the neighborhood.

NNA said a man identified as Shihab al-Obeid was killed by sniper fire in Bab al-Tabbaneh and that sniper gunshots were hitting all the frontiers of clashes, especially the Bab al-Tabbaneh highway.

In the evening, five people were wounded in Bab al-Tabbaneh, according to NNA, which identified them as Syrian national Radiya Kolaj and Lebanese citizens Mohammed Mheish, Mohammed Turmaz, Bassem Turmaz and Raeda Zakaria.

For its part, Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) said a mortar landed at the entrance of the al-Beddawi Palestinian refugee camp and that sniper fire was targeting all the hotspots.

And Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) said two rocket-propelled grenades exploded in al-Baqqar.

Later on Friday, Tripoli's MPs held an emergency meeting at MP Mohammed Kabbara's residence, describing the deadly clashes as a “war of attrition against all of the city's assets and against all Tripoli residents.”

“This is a conspiracy and a blatant crime against Lebanon's second capital that is aimed at completely undermining its security and we cannot remain silent over this. Today, Tripoli is abandoned and no one is asking about its situations or seeking to halt the bloodbath that is engulfing its neighborhoods,” the conferees said in a statement.

“The cabinet, which won the vote of confidence yesterday, should have met immediately and summoned the chiefs of the security agencies to find a quick solution aimed at protecting Tripoli's residents from the continuous attacks on them,” they added.

The lawmakers called on the army to “perform its duties in responding to the sources of gunfire and taking the measures that would contribute to stopping these attacks,” urging the military institution “not to retreat, especially that it enjoys a political and local cover.”

The MPs also urged the army to take firm steps in a “fair and balanced” manner, condemning the attacks that targeted troops in Tripoli and calling for the punishment of the perpetrators.

The army “must play its role and confront all security violators and we call on the president and the premier to immediately ask the cabinet to hold an emergency meeting, as Tripoli, whose sons are being killed, will not await the comprehensive security plan and it rather needs deterrent and quick measures to stop this aggravating, unbearable bloodshed,” they added, accusing the “gang of Jabal Mohsen” of starting the current round of fighting.

Earlier on Friday, LBCI said the army searched some houses in Jabal Mohsen and carried out raids in al-Baqqar after a soldier was wounded by sniper fire in the morning.

The army came under heavy gunfire as it entered al-Baqqar to carry out the raid, it said.

“Army units are continuing to implement the security measures they had started this morning to contain the situation in the city of Tripoli and are immediately responding to the sources of gunfire and snipers, the thing that has left four soldiers wounded,” the Army Command said in a statement.

“These units also raided the positions of gunmen in Qobbeh's Hariri residential complex, Jabal Mohsen's al-Amerkan Street and the areas of al-Baqqar and al-Riva, seizing weapons, ammunition and military equipment,” the statement added.

A security source told Agence France Presse that two people were killed in Bab al-Tabbaneh and a third in Jabal Mohsen overnight, as gunmen fired from both sides.

A fourth died in Jabal Mohsen of wounds sustained two days earlier.

The deaths were the latest in a round of fighting between gunmen in the Sunni district of Bab al-Tabbaneh and fighters in the Alawite Jabal Mohsen neighborhood. The fighting had first erupted last week following the shooting death of a Jabal Mohsen man.

The army has deployed in the city in a bid to calm the tensions, but has come under fire several times.

Overnight, an explosive device detonated as the army patrolled in the city, wounding one soldier, the security source said.

The army later issued a statement explaining that the device was planted on the side of the road in the al-Bohsas area.

It was detonated when an army patrol passed by the area, but no one was injured in the attack.

Several nearby vehicles were damaged in the incident, said the communique.

Source: Agence France Presse, Naharnet

Copyright © 2012 All Rights Reserved.