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Middle east

Deadly clashes over Syria’s Assad in north Lebanon

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-02

Gun battles and rocket fire in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli killed at least 10 people and wounded dozens more over the weekend as fierce clashes between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad took hold of the city.

Sectarian clashes between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad left at least 10 people dead in northern Lebanon over the weekend, a security source said on Sunday.

The fighting in the rundown coastal city of Tripoli also wounded 49 people, including 11 soldiers, the source told AFP.

On Sunday four people were killed, two of whom were shot by a sniper. The third was an off-duty soldier and the last victim a woman who died of injuries sustained the previous day.

On Saturday, six people were killed in fierce clashes that lasted late into the night. Residents said the sounds of heavy gunfire and rocket explosions echoed across the city from midnight to 6 am.

The fighting pits residents of the city's Jabal Mohsen district against those of neighbouring Bab al-Tabbaneh.

The Bab al-Tabbaneh district is largely Sunni Muslim, as are most of the Syrian rebels fighting against Assad's rule. Residents of Jabal Mohsen, a neighbourhood perched on a hill, are mostly of Assad's Alawite sect.

Tensions between the neighbouring areas date back to Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war but have been exacerbated by the conflict across the border in Syria.

Fighting began on Saturday after Sunni gunmen shot a man whose brother controls an Alawite militia, sparking gun battles that trapped children in schools and forced traders to flee their shops.

Lebanon’s state agency said fighters used rocket-propelled grenades to target their rivals in the crowded neighbourhoods.

Among Saturday's dead was 15-year-old Omar al-Haswani, who was killed inside a school near Bab al-Tabbaneh.

On Sunday an entire three-storey building in Jabal Mohsen collapsed following an explosion blamed by the Alawite community on Sunni militiamen.

According to Abdel Latif Saleh, spokesman for the Arab Democratic Party, which supports Assad, "the blast came after militiamen from Bab al-Tabbaneh neighbourhood planted explosives in the building".

No one was injured, as the building was uninhabited.

Arrests

The Lebanese army remained deployed in the northern city on Sunday, responding to sporadic sniper fire.

A military source told AFP that soldiers had arrested four suspects, confiscated their weapons and taken them in for questioning.

Tensions have been running high in Tripoli since Thursday, when residents of Jabal Mohsen began flying Syrian flags to demonstrate their support for the Assad regime.

In response, residents of neighbouring Bab el-Tabbaneh raised the flag favoured by rebels seeking the ouster of Assad.

The clashes are the latest round of violence which has killed more than 100 people in the Mediterranean city, Lebanon’s second largest, this year.

Meanwhile in southern Lebanon, a member of Palestinian movement Fatah was shot dead in the country's largest camp for Palestinian refugees, an official told AFP.

"Two men with their faces covered opened fire using machine guns at 25-year-old Fatah member Mohammad Saadi. He has been confirmed dead," said Maher Shabayta, a Fatah leader in the Ain al-Helweh camp.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, another official said a second man, a 50-year-old civilian named Ibrahim Abdel Ghani, was killed when armed members of Saadi's family took to the streets and started shooting randomly to protest his death.

The deaths come two days after clashes pitting Fatah, the group that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas heads, against radical Islamists in the camp.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2013-12-02

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