TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Lebanese troops struggled Monday to restore calm in the northern city of Tripoli following the Army’s deployment in a pro-Syrian regime neighborhood.
An Army unit came under fire late Monday near al-Mourabetoun Center, in the first attack on the military in downtown Tripoli. No casualties were reported in that incident.
Three soldiers were wounded earlier in the day in a standoff with anti-Assad gunmen on Syria Street in the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood.
The Army confirmed the incident and said it was in pursuit of the perpetrators.
A security source told The Daily Star a civilian was also wounded in the midday face-off between gunmen and soldiers on Syria Street, the thoroughfare separating the warring Tripoli neighborhoods of Alawite Jabal Mohsen and Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh.
The source said gunmen exchanged gunfire with troops trying to deploy in Bab al-Tabbaneh, a stronghold for pro-Syria opposition fighters who have been engaging in sporadic clashes with their rivals in Jabal Mohsen for eight consecutive days.
At least 16 people were killed and over 90 wounded since the clashes erupted last week following an interview with President Bashar Assad on a Lebanon-based television channel.
Head of the pro-regime Arab Democratic Party, Rifaat Eid, ordered his supporters in a recorded message to refrain from intervening in the fighting given that the battle was now "between Bab al-Tabbaneh and the Army."
Residents of Bab al-Tabbaneh blocked roads to their neighborhood with burning tires and trash containers in an effort to prevent the Army deployment.
Lebanese Navy commandos had managed to take up positions in the mainly Alawite Jabal Mohsen area at 4 a.m. as part of the security plan for the northern city. Under the plan, the Lebanese Army would deploy in Bab al-Tabbaneh.
At least six people were wounded in overnight sniper fire, occasionally punctuated by rocket-propelled grenades, according to sources.
Some schools across Tripoli dared to open Monday and overnight fighting did not disrupt normal life in Lebanon’s second-largest city.
The sources said the evening clashes largely focused on the Wheat Market and Omari road that separate the rival areas of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh as well as Starco in Bab al-Tabbaneh.
The Lebanese Army began Sunday taking measures, including setting up checkpoints and mounting patrols between the warring parties.
A similar security plan for Tripoli failed earlier this month as the warring sides in the conflict continued to fight.