Clashes intensified on Sunday evening in the northern city of Tripoli as the casualty toll from two days of fighting rose to 11 dead and at least 70 injured.
“The situation has largely deteriorated in Tripoli as dozens of rocket-propelled grenades hit the frontiers of al-Mankoubin, al-Riva, al-Baqqar, Souk al-Qameh, al-Barraniyeh, Hariri Residential Complex, al-Amerkan and Syria Street,” state-run National News Agency reported.
Five people were killed by sniper gunshots on Sunday after a violent night of clashes that left six people dead and more than 40 others wounded.
In the evening, the fighting escalated on the frontiers of al-Riva, al-Mankoubin, al-Mallouleh and Jabal Mohsen, as gunmen fired RPGs and unleashed their light- and medium-caliber machineguns. The army was responding with medium weapons in a bid to silence the sources of gunfire.
The sounds of gunshots and explosions were being heard in neighborhoods that are relatively far from the clashes zone.
“Rabih Seif, 30, was hit in the stomach by a stray bullet in the Wadi Nahleh area which is near the clashes zone in Tripoli,” NNA said.
Some bullets reached Azmi Street. One hit a black SUV on Shafiq Karami Street setting it on fire.
Meanwhile, army soldier Abdullah Ojeij died of wounds he incurred in the al-Baqqar area as he was heading to his home in civilian clothes.
And a man identified as Osama al-Rifai was wounded by shrapnel in Souk al-Qameh and rushed to hospital.
The National News Agency said “sniper fire is targeting anything moving in Tripoli and the international highway that links Tripoli to Akkar.”
A security source said fires had broken out in buildings along the dividing line between the neighborhoods as a result of the fierce clashes.
Earlier on Sunday, LBCI television said three young men were killed in the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood as sniper activity resumed.
The rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen had witnessed a relatively calm morning, according to NNA.
Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) identified some of the dead as Mahmoud al-Sheikh, Abdul Rahman Merheb, Ramzieh al-Zohbi, Salma al-Sharqawi, Ali Subaihi, Omar Haswani, Bilal Saado, Ali al-Ahmed, and Mahmoud Omra.
Also on Sunday, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati demanded that all Tripoli officials assume their responsibilities towards the unrest in the city.
“Nothing is more important to me at the moment than protecting Tripoli,” he said in a statement.
He added that a meeting of Tripoli officials was held on Saturday after he had held consultations with President Michel Suleiman.
The gatherers agreed that all security forces would abide by the orders of the Army Command and that the army would take all necessary measures to contain the situation in Tripoli, continued Miqati.
“I decided, in agreement with Tripoli MPs, to take a decisive and unified stand against any lax approach in dealing with the situation in the city,” he stated.
Meanwhile, LBCI television reported on Sunday that the army arrested in Bab al-Tabbaneh at dawn a member of the Janzarli family for opening fire at soldiers.
It confiscated a number of weapons and explosives in his possession.
“We had warned that leniency in dealing with the case of the twin bombings (that targeted two mosques in the city) would lead to aggravating the sectarian conflict and that some parties might try to take advantage of the situation,” said Muslim cleric Sheikh Khaled al-Sayyed, speaking on behalf of Bab al-Tabbaneh’s residents.
Arab Democratic Party leader “Rifaat Eid did not execute his threat against those who attacked his supporters, but rather against ordinary people — men, women and children at schools and on the streets,” he said.
“Will you disregard our blood amid these dangerous events? Will you keep considering us to be the terrorists while regarding the killers as victims only because they know how to weep?” Sayyed said.
“To the military institution we say: Will you risk the lives of your soldiers for the sake of Rifaat Eid, (Hizbullah chief Sayyed) Hassan Nasrallah and (Syrian President) Bashar Assad?” he added.
“The laws are only targeting the weak while the criminals are enjoying impunity,” Sayyed lamented.
Meanwhile, speaking to supporters via walkie-talkie, Eid said “army troops are like our families and we must not commit any mistake against them.”
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 neighboring Bab al-Tabbaneh raised the flag favored by rebels seeking the ouster of Assad.
The same day, gunmen shot and wounded four workers from Jabal Mohsen in the city, prompting condemnation and demonstrations by residents of the neighborhood.
Sectarian clashes related to the Syrian civil war often flare in Tripoli, in particular between the two impoverished neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen that back opposite sides of the conflict in the neighboring country.