Hizbullah Vacates Disputed Apartments in Sidonإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Hizbullah vacated several apartments in the area of Abra in the southern city of Sidon, handing them over to the Lebanese army, three days after gunbattles turned the city into a battle zone.
The apartments, which lie meters from the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque compound in which Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir was a preacher, were one of the main reason for the fierce campaign launched by him against Hizbullah.
TV footage showed two apartments burned and damaged.
The army and security forces on Tuesday launched a manhunt for Asir after clashes between soldiers and his supporters left around 18 troops dead.
The military consolidated its grip on Sidon after overrunning the cleric's mosque complex late Monday. But Asir remained at large.
Syria's civil war has been bleeding into Lebanon for the past year, following similar sectarian lines of Sunni and Shiite camps. The military has struggled on multiple fronts in the eastern Bekaa valley and the northern city of Tripoli, where armed factions have fought street battles that often last several days.
Al-Asir, a 45-year-old cleric, supports the overwhelmingly Sunni rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Few had heard of him until last year, when he began agitating for Hizbullah to disarm and to clear the apartments near his mosque.
Last year, he set up a protest tent city that closed a main road in Sidon for a month in a sit-in meant to pressure Hizbullah to disarm.
Earlier this month, he accused the army of “defending” the apartments owned by the Shiite party.
He warned he would resort to a “military option” if his demand to vacate them were not met.