FSA involved in north Lebanon battle: Eid

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Members of the Free Syrian Army were involved in the north Lebanon fighting, the head of the Arab Democratic Party said Tuesday, holding former Prime Minister Saad Hariri responsible for the deaths.

“The ones who were fighting are not from Tripoli, they are Free Syrian Army [members] situated in Bab al-Tabbaneh,” Rifaat Eid told reporters at a press conference at his Jabal Mohsen residence.

He added that he has the names of Syrian rebels who are receiving treatment in hospitals.

Eid was referring to the latest round of fighting, which he described as “the fiercest,” and which left at least 17 people dead and over 100 wounded.

Pro-Assad residents of Jabal Mohsen which is majority-Alawite, have fought on several occasions this year with their rivals in the Sunni majority of Bab al-Tabbaneh, where residents largely support the Syrian uprising.

Eid, whose party is influential in Jabal Mohsen, also said that FSA fighters were shipping “all types of weapons” into Bab al-Tabbaneh.

“I don’t have a problem with Bab al-Tabbaneh residents but with politicians of that neighborhood who are responsible for the killing of 17 young men and the death of 17 in Tripoli in the last week,” he said.

Fighting erupted early last week in the northern city after news surfaced that 17 young men, mostly from Tripoli, were killed in an ambush by regime forces in the Syrian town of Tal Kalakh.

Syrian state television last week broadcast footage showing the bodies of Lebanese fighters along with their identification cards, and Damascus later agreed to hand over the bodies.

Three of the fighters, thought to be Islamists, were returned Sunday in a move that was hoped would lessen tension in the city.

During the news conference Eid displayed the remains of mortar shells that fell on Jabal Mohsen, denying that his men targeted downtown Tripoli or that they used mortar shells.

He also accused Hariri, the head of the Future Movement, which has a strong support base in Tripoli, of being behind the tensions and foreign fighters in the city.

“All that Saad Hariri gained from such tension is that he killed 17 men in Tal Kalakh in Syria and 17 innocent people in Lebanon,” Eid said.

“I promise Saad Hariri that all his plans against Jabal Mohsen will fail,” he added.

The Lebanese Army deployed heavily in the city Sunday and began implementing a security plan put forward during the meeting of the Higher Defense Council earlier that day.

The ADP leader also appealed to the government to compensate Tripoli’s residence for the damage.

Eid slammed the lack of Alawite figures in both the government as a whole and in the national-decision making process.

“The Alawite sect should name its own MPs … it should have a representative in the National Dialogue Committee and another in the Petroleum Committee,” Eid said.

“We want a piece of that cake as well,” he added.

Meanwhile, President Michel Sleiman followed up the security situation in the northern city and the implementation of the Army plan, a statement by his press office said.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who headed to his home city Tuesday morning, said that the Army will remain heavily deployed in Tripoli’s danger zones.

“The Army will stay in Tripoli to preserve the city’s safety,” Mikati said.

Mikati said that although the Army is now in the city, what is really needed to preserve Tripoli’s security is true reconciliation between the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen.

“What matters is that we open our hearts to each other and start a real reconciliation in the city because harmony cannot be imposed by security forces, it has to be real and stem from inside,” said the prime minister.

Describing Tripoli violence as “futile and random,” Mikati indicated that the residents of the city are the most aggrieved by the damage inflicted on Tripoli’s economy and image.

 

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