TRIPOLI – Lebanon Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Thursday that the Lebanese Army has been given the “green light” to restore order in the northern city of Tripoli after three days of clashes left at least 12 dead and 70 wounded, including 11 soldiers, according to a report by The Daily Star.
Mikati, who chaired a meeting of political, religious and security officials at his Tripoli residence, told reporters that things were “relatively stable” after the meeting.
A statement released after the meeting, attended by Tripoli Mufti Sheikh Malek al-Shaar, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and lawmakers from the city, urged the Army to take all the necessary measures to put a stop to the violence and arrest militants. It was agreed that Shaar would launch an initiative soon to bring together all parties and complete reconciliation efforts that started in 2009.
But gunfire could be heard near the area of Al-Malouleh in the neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh a few hours after the meeting and sporadic sniper fire left one man dead, violating a shaky truce.
Although a tenuous calm had prevailed in rival neighborhoods of the anti-Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Sunni dominant Bab al-Tabbaneh district and the pro-Assad Alawite area of Jabal Mohsen, periodic gunshots coupled with sniper fire came as no surprise, especially as some groups in Bab al-Tabbaneh had not agreed to the cease-fire.
In a bid to resolve the crisis in the city, political and security officials met at Future Movement lawmaker Mohammad Kabbara’s residence Wednesday and orchestrated a truce.
The officials also called on the Lebanese Army to deploy in all conflict zones. Army units strengthened their presence along Syria Street, with a symbolic presence in both neighborhoods.
Mikati warned that if the fighting, spurred by Syria rifts, continued, all of Lebanon would be affected.
U.N. says no side in Lebanon should overstep state authority
U.N. official Robert Watkins said Thursday all sides in Lebanon should not overstep the authority of state institutions and that the latter should not allow the presence of actors who take the law into their own hands.
“We believe the Lebanese state has an important role to play in ensuring that stability is preserved, while all sides in the country should respect and not overstep the country’s state institutions,” Watkins, the U.N. special coordinator in Lebanon, told reporters after meeting Interior Minister Marwan Charbel.
He also said that repeated security breaches undermine efforts by many in Lebanon to promote peace, stability and long-term development.
“Lebanon cannot accept that there are actors who take the law into their own hands with impunity. We support the statements by the Lebanese president and prime minister to bring those guilty of crimes to justice,” he said.
President Michel Sleiman has asked the judiciary to issue warrants against kidnappers of Syrian nationals and secure the release of the abductees.
The armed Mokdad clan last week kidnapped over 20 Syrians and a Turkish national in retaliation for the abduction of their relative in Damascus by rebels. Some 10 Syrians and another Turkish man were also kidnapped by Al-Mukhtar Al-Thaqafi group, who demanded the release of the 11 Lebanese pilgrims who were kidnapped in Syria on May 22.
The abductions, along with the repeated blocking of the road leading to the airport in Beirut, prompted many countries to issue travel advisories, with Kuwait evacuating almost all of its citizens.
“I also agreed with Minister (Marwan) Charbel that the Lebanese state has a moral responsibility to protect innocent people, including Syrian nationals, many of whom are here as refugees seeking shelter from the violence in their own country,” Watkins said.
The U.N. official also said that Secretary General Ban ki-Moon has strongly condemned kidnappings and retaliatory hostage-taking in Syria and Lebanon and called for an immediate release of all those detained without due process and in violation of their human rights.
Speaking about the ongoing clashes in the northern city of Tripoli between supporters and opponents of President Bashar Assad, Watkins said the U.N. has been following closely the fighting with concern, expressing “deep regret for the unfortunate loss of life that was reported and the fact that the violence has continued in Tripoli.”
-Daily Star, TAAN, AFP