Saturday, May 10, 2008

Day 4: Fighting Outside of Beirut

Fighting erupted today in areas outside of Beirut as militants loyal to the Future Movement (FM) engaged in heavy fighting with Hizballah-allied pro-Syrian gunmen throughout the [predominantly Sunni] city of Tripoli and in the rural villages of the Akkar district, north of the city.

The fighting in Tripoli, which as of 9:00 pm local time is still ongoing, resulted in the burning of offices belonging to the Syrian Socialist National Party (SSNP) and Hizballah. Clashes near the town of Halba, in the district of Akkar, between FM militants and pro-Syrian SSNP militants resulted in the deaths of 14 people.

Three Syrian laborers were also reported dead when a bus carrying them came under attack on the Minya highway in Lebanon's North district. Reports indicate that the laborers were killed at a makeshift checkpoint setup by FM militants.

Meanwhile Al Jazeera (via Naharnet) reported the death of 7 Hizballah militants after a late night assault by the group on the mountain town Ras al Jabal, in the district of Aley. According to the report the assault also left two members of the [pre-dominantly Druze] Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) dead.

In Beirut, a funeral procession for two Tareeq Jdeedeh residents killed in clashes earlier this week came under attack when a Shiite shop owner residing in the area opened fire on the procession [graphic images of the scene here]. The shooting left at least two dead and six injured. The shooter was apprehended by security services after fleeing the scene.

Despite sporadic clashes and gunfire, the capital witnessed a day of reduced fighting intensity as compared with earlier this week when Hizballah-led gunman staged a takeover of the city. Despite a statement released by the Army earlier in the day calling for the withdrawal of gunmen from the streets, dirt roadblocks continued to be put up as residents, weary of further attacks, sought to block off their neighborhoods.

Early reports from the capital seem to indicate that Army units are taking over neighborhoods evacuated by Hizballah-led militants. The total death toll since the launch of Hizballah's four day assault is estimated at 40.

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