At least six people have been killed and dozens injured over the past two days in clashes in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli between gunmen loyal to opposing sides in neighbouring Syria’s conflict, security officials have said.
The fighting on Tuesday and Wednesday in the port city has pitted Sunni Muslim districts against areas housing Alawites, from the same religious community as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Lebanese army sent out patrols in areas separating the two sides.
Tensions had been building since the reported killing last week of 21 Lebanese from Tripoli, and one Palestinian, in the town of Tal Kalakh in the central Syrian province of Homs near the border.
They appeared to have joined fighters involved in a 21-month-old revolt against Assad.
Syrian state television had shown graphic footage apparently showing the dead men, riddled with bullet wounds and lying in the grass.
Adnan Mansour, Lebanon’s foreign minister, asked the Syrian ambassador to hand over the bodies of the men after their families protested in Tripoli, demanding the Lebanese government return the corpses and determine the whereabouts of the missing.
A diplomatic source in Lebanon told the AFP news agency that Damascus has agreed to repatriate the bodies.
“The Syrian ambassador to Beirut, Ali Abdel Karim Ali, contacted Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour and informed him that the Syrian authorities have agreed” to the Lebanese request, the source said.
Officials from both sides were scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss the repatriation, the source, who wished to remain anonymous, added
The sectarian makeup of Tripoli has made it a flashpoint within Lebanon where violence from Syria has sometimes spilled over.
Tripoli is a majority Sunni city and mostly supports the uprising across the border, but it has an Alawite minority and clashes have erupted several times since the revolt began.