At Least 10 Dead in Tripoli Clashes as Heavy Weapons Used for 1st Time

At least nine people were killed on Thursday in ongoing clashes between the rival Tripoli neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, as different caliber mortars in addition to flare bombs were introduced to the battle for the first time.

The fighting intensified as the night fell on the city after intermittent clashes throughout the day, amid several futile attempts to reach a ceasefire.

“We're about to reach a ceasefire decision to which everyone would commit and which would allow the implementation of a comprehensive security plan and a broader deployment by the Lebanese army on the frontier between the two districts and on all fighting frontiers, in order to restore security and stability in the city,” MP Mohammed Kabbara announced in the afternoon.

MTV reported that caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati had invited the leaders of the fighting frontiers to a meeting at his residence and that they refused to attend it, but the premier's office denied the report.

The National News Agency said two people were killed in the evening in Jabal Mohsen, identifying them as Ali al-Ali and Suleiman al-Ali.

“Stray bullets reached al-Tal, Abi Samra and al-Qobbeh, sparking a major state of fear among citizens,” NNA said.

Later, Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) said Milad Hadshiti was killed when a sniper shot struck him in the head at the Hariri Project area in al-Qobbeh.

The security forces will take the necessary measures to restore clam in Tripoli within the coming few hours, NNA said.

Earlier, the army said three troops were wounded when an army base in the Dahr al-Mughr area came under gunfire. Two other soldiers were also injured, one critically, when their civilian car came under gunfire outside the entrance of the North's military hospital.

“Army units responded to the sources of gunfire and launched a major crackdown to arrest the perpetrators while the wounded were transported to hospital for treatment,” said a statement issued by the Army Command.

A security source had told Agence France Presse: "Very violent fighting took place last night until 5:00 am that killed six people and wounded 40. The clashes and shelling affected several areas of the city, including the center,"

NNA said the gunbattles witnessed for the first time the use of 60 and 81 mm caliber mortar shells.

The bickering parties in the neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh, whose residents are mostly Sunni, and the Alawite Jabal Mohsen used flares to locate the sources of the shelling.

Other heavy weapons were also used for the first in the fighting in Tripoli, which has in the past years witnessed deadly gunbattles.

But the war in Syria worsened the security situation there after Bab al-Tabbaneh residents backed the revolution against Syrian President Bashar Assad and the families of Jabal Mohsen supported him.

Smoke was seen billowing into the sky of Tripoli in the morning after several shops and homes were damaged.

The battles that engulfed the city for the fifth day, kept schools and most companies and markets closed.

Troops have been deployed across the city since the outbreak, but this has failed to halt the fighting.

Caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn briefed on Wednesday President Michel Suleiman on the army's plan to restore security, said a statement issued by Baabda palace.

No further details were released.

The latest violence began as Assad's regime launched a withering assault on the rebel stronghold of Qusayr, near the border with Lebanon.

Hizbullah has been sending fighters across the border to help Syrian regime forces attack Qusayr.

In 1985, the Syrian army clashed with Sunni groups in Tripoli, and bombarded areas of the city, during Lebanon's civil war.

"The political tool used to wage the war is the same, it is the Arab Democratic Party," said Amin al-Qabbout, the municipal official of the Sunni al-Qobbeh area, referring to the party linked to Tripoli's Alawite community.

The ADP has, in return, accused Sunni groups of starting the fighting.

In an interview on LBCI in the evening, ADP leader Rifaat Eid said "Tripoli would only be hit when Jabal Mohsen ceases to exist and Jabal Mohsen is protecting it," denying as baseless media reports claiming mortars were being fired on the city.

Source: Agence France Presse, Naharnet

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