Around 1,500 supporters of Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir rallied peacefully Sunday in the southern city of Sidon amid tight security measures.
Addressing those who had responded to his call to rally, the controversial sheikh slammed what he called Hezbollah’s “hegemony” in Lebanon through the force of weapons.
“Some people are deliberately trying to create hegemony in Lebanon through their arms,” Assir said.
Assir accused Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah and Amal leader Nabih Berri of monopolizing decision-making within the Shiite sect in Lebanon.
“We want to live in peace with all sects, Sunnis, Shiites and Christians,” said Assir.
Lebanese Army units deployed from the morning in Sidon amid concerns of security incidents in the coastal city, and strict security measures were implemented to maintain calm ahead of the rally. Interior Minister Marwan Charbel personally headed to the city at around noon and held several meetings.
Before settling at Morjan roundabout crossroad where the two-hour sit-in was held, Assir supporters roamed Sidon streets, raising black flags and cheering slogans against Nasrallah and vowing to get revenge for the death of the three people who were killed in the November unrest in the city, two of whom were Assir’s bodyguards.
Some Syrians and youth from the northern city of Tripoli also took part in the rally and cheered slogans against the Assad regime.
Vehicles carrying Assir supporters were out in the city of Tripoli over the weekend, with supporters making calls via speaker for residents to gather at the Nour Square in Tripoli and head to Sidon to take part in Assir’s protest.
Protestors blocked a secondary road in Sidon after getting permission from the relevant authorities, while the Beirut-South Lebanon highway remained open.
The sheikh, a staunch opponent of Hezbollah, has held frequent protests in the city to criticize the Assad regime and the support it enjoys from Hezbollah.
Local media reports said that Sunday’s sit-in is to commemorate the three who were killed during the November unrest in the city.
Last month, deadly clashes erupted in Sidon between supporters of Assir and Hezbollah. The clashes raised tension in the coastal city and prompted the Lebanese Army and security forces to expand their deployment in Sidon and take exceptional security measures in the city.
Speaking to the Kataeb-run Voice of Lebanon radio station, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said earlier Sunday that the security forces will do their best to preserve security in Sidon and keep things under control.
He stressed that the Army and security forces will deploy heavily in the city to prevent any unrest.