After at least six people have been killed in bloody sectarian clashes in the streets of the northern port Tripoly, Lebanese tanks have been sent there. Soldiers took position on Saturday, between the predominantly Sunni Bab al-Tebbaneh district the neighbouring largely Alawite area of Jabal Mohsen.
“The army will respond to any sources of gunfire, any gunmen will be detained”, said Ashraf Reefi, the head of the Internal Security Forces, during a meeting on Saturday, the National News Agency reported.
Yet, with many packings their belongings in order to leave for safer areas, local residents seemed unconvinced that the fighting could be quelled by the military.
The fighting first erupted on Friday, said a security official, and among the dead there is a 10-year-old boy and two women, in addition to another 50 people who were injured.
Many families have evacuated their homes near the main battle zone and taken refuge in schools, while shops have closed.
“We left everything behind. Now we are depending on the kindness of people and charity organisations for help”, said Ali Darwish, a Bab al-Tebbaeh resident who spent the night sheltering in a classroom without electricity.
“We are anxiously awaiting the army to bring back calm and stability, so we can go home. The situation in the school is unbearable.”
Despite a ceasefire, which was to have taken effect at 15:00 GMT on Friday, throughout the night, fighters from the rival communities fought with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons.
“The army has sent reinforcements to the battle zones to secure the ceasefire and the army command has promised us to firmly respond to any violation of the ceasefire”, said Mohammed Abdel Latif Kabbara, a Sunni MP of the parliamentary ruling majority.
While the inhabitants of Jabal Mohsen are mainly supporters of the Hezbollah-led opposition, Bab al-Tebbaneh is a stronghold of the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority.
Alawites are an offshoot of Shia Islam who revere Imam Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed.
Tensions between the two communities started in Tripoli to Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, and in the latest clashes at least 23 people have been killed, and more that 100 wounded since June.
Although in May, a Qatari-mediated deal largely resolved a protracted political conflict between the sides, now the groups are at odds over the policy statement of a national unity government, finally formed on July 11, after weeks of debate over which party would control which government portfolio.
The latest fighting comes ahead of a parliamentary vote of confidence, that would enable the government to be officially installed.
Yet, a shadow has been cast by the fighting in Tripoli, over the deal which ended a bitter political conflict between Lebanon’s Sunni-led governing coalition and an opposition alliance led by Hezbollah, close to Alawite groups in Tripoli.