Calm prevails in Tripoli after Army deployment
The Daily Star, Beirut, Lebanon
TRIPOLI, Lebanon –The Army deployed Tuesday in two warring neighborhoods, ending seven days of bloody fighting between supporters and opponents of Syrian President in Lebanon’s second city.
As part of a security plan to end the violence in the northern city, troops in 10 armored personnel carriers took up positions early Tuesday along near the mainly Alawite, pro-Assad neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen.
Later in the day, soldiers moved to Syria Street, which separates from the mainly Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh area, where anti-Assad sentiments run high.
Fighting between the two neighborhoods subsided around midnight Monday, bringing to a halt the latest round of violence in Tripoli, which killed 16 people and wounded over 80.
Calm prevailed after Ziad Allouki, a local militia commander in Bab al-Tabbaneh, urged fighters not to attack soldiers, stressing that their conflict was with gunmen in Jabal Mohsen.
Gunmen withdrew from the streets and alleys in the warring neighborhoods, while the Army organized patrols along Syria Street. Soldiers also erected checkpoints, examined the identity documents of drivers passing through and searched vehicles.
The Army delayed its deployment plan in Monday after its units came under fire.
Residents of Tripoli who fled their homes and shops during the fighting over the weekend came back to check on their properties.
They urged the local municipality to clear the streets of rubble and fix cut electricity lines.
News that a suspect in the Aug. 23 twin bombings in Tripoli had been referred to the Internal Security Forces for interrogation also helped to calm tensions in the city.
Detainee was arrested over the weekend in Akkar for allegedly helping a suspect linked to the attacks flee country. The bombings killed 47 people and wounded hundreds of others.
Military Prosecutor Judge referred Ali to the ISF’s Information Branch for further interrogation.
A source familiar with the issue said that Saqr’s decision came after Ali confessed to that he had helped flee to Syria from Jabal Mohsen. Merhi allegedly parked the rigged car that exploded near in Tripoli.
Ali worked as a driver for Rifaat Eid, the head of the Arab Democratic Party, dominant in Jabal Mohsen.
Earlier this month, Saqr charged seven people, including some ADP members, over the Tripoli bombings.
But speaking to a local TV station, Eid expressed surprise that Ali had been referred to the Information Branch, as no arrest warrant had been issued against him.
“Leaks [about Ali’s confessions] began after he was handed over to the Information Branch. Is this a security body or does it intend on making disclosures to spark strife, desired by the Future Movement and Saudi Arabia? Does the Information Branch want a new battle?” Eid said.
Former Prime Minister hailed the new Army effort to restore calm in Tripoli, saying it was a step in the right direction.
“The measures taken by the Lebanese Army in Tripoli constitute a good start, that we hope will continue in the right direction, and will put a final end to the repeated attempts to control the security of the city and its stability,” Hariri said in a statement.
“We hope it will restore the dignity of the state in its role as protector of the people and stop the armed chaos fueled, funded and sponsored by well-known groups that comprise the security and military arm of the Syrian regime in Lebanon,” Hariri added.
Hariri also said that Tripoli would no longer accept being victimized by the recurrent rounds of violence in the northern city.
He said he was confident that the people of Tripoli would fully cooperate with the Army as it implemented its security plan in the city.
Tripoli’s mayor said he was optimistic about the Army’s deployment in Tripoli’s volatile neighborhoods.
“The situation is good in general and municipal teams were asked to take part in removing sand bags,” Ghazal said. “But we hope that this stability will hold.”
Ghazal said that Tripoli was “dying” as a result of successive waves of violence over the past few years.
Meanwhile, President discussed current security and political developments with caretaker Prime Minister at Baabda Palace.
Also in Baabda Palace, Army Commander Gen. briefed Sleiman and Mikati about progress made in implementing Tripoli’s security plan.
Mikati also discussed measures to end the violence in Tripoli with a delegation from the headed by Sheikh Salem Rafei.