A Lebanese man points at burnt-out vehicles in the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighbourhood
A Lebanese man points at burnt-out vehicles in the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighbourhood of the Lebanese northern port city of Tripoli. Residents of an unrest-hit area of the north Lebanese city of Tripoli returned to their neighbourhoods Thursday to inspect the damage, after four days of sectarian fighting killed 10. © Anwar Amro - AFP
A Lebanese man points at burnt-out vehicles in the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighbourhood
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Omar Ibrahim, AFP
Last updated: August 23, 2012

Residents return to scene of fighting in Tripoli, north Lebanon

Residents of an unrest-hit area of the north Lebanese city of Tripoli returned to their neighbourhoods Thursday to inspect the damage, after four days of sectarian fighting killed 10.

Taking advantage of a tenuous ceasefire, several families displaced by the fighting returned to the districts of Bab al-Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, where deadly clashes between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime erupted on Monday, an AFP correspondent said.

Earlier in the day renewed fighting killed one person and wounded two others, a security source had said.

But a ceasefire seemed to take hold by the early afternoon, the correspondent said.

Hundreds of soldiers with tanks and military vehicles were deployed on the aptly named Syria Street -- which acts both as the dividing line between the two districts and as the frontline when fighting erupts.

Bab al-Tebbaneh is a majority Sunni district, whose residents are opposed to the Syrian regime, while Jabal Mohsen is mostly Alawite, an offshoot of Shiite Islam and the community of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"My family moved in with my sister, and I came to see what had been damaged," said Walid Zoabi, a 52-year-old Sunni man who works for an exchange bureau, as he went to inspect his home in Bab al-Tebbaneh.

"But I won't be moving back home until the army deploys fully, because I don't feel safe yet," said Zoabi. "I have left home 12 times since 2008 because of the clashes."

On the same street, Zeina al-Masri, 55, said she returned to collect clothes and important documents.

"I can't come back home in the current situation, so I will move in with my husband's family in Akkar," north of Tripoli, said the mother of five.

Buildings in the neighbourhoods were riddled with bullets, shops were closed, electricity cables hung down between households, water poured out from damaged pipes and the army laid tyres around unexploded munitions.

At least 10 people have been killed and 86 others wounded in four days of fighting and clashes raged overnight Wednesday despite the deployment of the army and the ceasefire.

Lebanon's Sunni communities largely oppose Assad, while the Alawites, who belong to the same minority as the Syrian leader, back his regime.

The port city of Tripoli and the capital Beirut have seen increasing violence since the Syrian conflict erupted 17 months ago. Nearly 25,000 people have been killed in the conflict, according to a Syrian watchdog.

A wave of kidnappings preceded the latest round of fighting and rattled the already fragile security situation in Lebanon, which lived under three decades of Syrian domination.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a native of Tripoli, on Wednesday raised fresh concern at "efforts to drag Lebanon more and more into the conflict in Syria when what is required is for leaders to cooperate ... to protect Lebanon from the danger."

The authorities have instructed the army and security forces "to bring the situation under control, to prohibit any armed presence and to arrest those implicated" in the violence, he said in a statement.

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