Cautious Calm in Sidon as Clash Victims Laid to Rest

Cautious calm prevailed in the southern port city of Sidon on Monday amid heavy deployment by the army after a gunbattle erupted between Hizbullah supporters and Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir in the Taamir Ain al-Hilweh neighborhood.

Schools and shops closed as the city mourned the killing of three people during the armed clashes, which also wounded seven others.

Asir decided to bury two of his supporters at al-Karama roundabout, the site of the month-long sit-in he had held earlier this year.

"Your blood is not less valuable than the blood of any Muslim," Asir said as his bodyguard Lobnan al-Ezz and loyalist Ali Samhoun were laid to rest.

Security sources told As Safir newspaper that the situation in the southern city requires imposing a state of emergency or declaring it a military zone.

According to the sources, the cabinet session that will be held at the Grand Serail on Wednesday will tackle the situation in Sidon.

The daily said that several security figures, who attended an emergency security meeting presided by Interior Minister Marwan Charbel on Sunday night, demanded the arrest of Asir after obtaining the necessary political cover for such an endeavor.

However, Charbel wondered about the repercussions of the issue on the local situation.

"There will be no security compromises after today. The army will open fire on anyone holding a weapon," Charbel said during the meeting.

On Friday, Asir gave an ultimatum to Hizbullah supporters in the city to take down all posters promoting the party. But they “rejected” prompting the Salafist cleric and his supporters to head to the Taamir neighborhood and rip down a poster of Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

The Army Command issued a statement saying military units have launched raids aimed at arresting the shooters in Sidon, warning that its troops will deal “firmly and forcefully with any gunmen who appear on the streets regardless of their affiliation.”

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