Lebanon – Sidon groups meet to contain tension

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 Efforts to restore calm intensified Friday in Sidon after armed clashes resulted in the death of one person the day before.

The Lebanese Army arrested five individuals involved in the clashes and security officials investigated the crime scene.

Palestinian Mohammad Dirar, a member of the Hezbollah-affiliated Resistance Companies, was killed and three others were wounded in an armed clash with members of the Popular Nasserite Organization in the Nazlet Sidoun neighborhood of the city. In an attempt to contain the situation, PNO head Osama Saad received a delegation from Hezbollah Friday evening.

Sources told The Daily Star that during the meeting, Saad informed Hezbollah officials that there was no need for a presence by the Resistance Companies in Sidon, given that Hezbollah considers its allies in the city, such as the PNO, to be resistance groups.

According to the sources, Saad called on Hezbollah to close the offices of Resistance Companies in the city and sack one of its members in Sidon whom the PNO accuses of being responsible for Thursday’s violence.

Other sources from Sidon attributed the cooling ties between the PNO and Resistance Companies to Hezbollah’s policy in the city. They said this policy is based on marginalizing some allies in the city and recruiting members from them to form the Resistance Companies in a bid to exert control over the security situation.

There are growing concerns that Hezbollah’s current policy will negatively impact and undermine the PNO in the city, the sources said.

A PNO statement said that Saad condemned the clash and stressed during the meeting that the incident was not politically motivated.

The Future Movement accused Hezbollah of being behind the clash in a statement issued Friday.

“Hezbollah wants to disrupt Sidon’s security by creating tensions through its allies, which are scattered around the city, and using them as tools to implement its project which aims to control the city and keep tensions high,” the Future Movement said. The statement also called for removing illegal weapons in the city and dealing forcefully with the perpetrators.

The Lebanese Army said it arrested five suspects involved in the clashes, “based on information collected on the identity of those who opened fire.”

Mahmoud Bazazo, a member of the Resistance Companies, and Ahmad Raja Masrieh from the PNO, were identified as two of the five detained suspects, sources told The Daily Star.

Bassam Hammoud, an Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya official in Sidon, warned that his group would take action if authorities failed to protect the city.

“We will call on the people of Sidon to take to the streets if we do not come up with serious, real and honest solutions that eliminate the fear of strife and chaos,” Hammoud added.

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