Lebanese authorities have ordered that the coastal city of Tripoli be placed under army control, as the death toll of sectarian clashes, fuelled by Syria’ raging war, has continued to rise.
“It has been decided, for a period of six months, to task the army with all necessary measures to restore security,” interim Prime Minister Najib Mukati’s office said on Monday.
This is the first time since the end of Lebanon’s civil war in 1990 that the army has been ordered full control of a city.
The army will be in charge of carrying out arrests ordered by the judiciary. The military has announced the increase of security measures, such as patrols and checkpoints, in the northern port city.
Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simons, reporting from the capital Beirut, said Mukati denied that military control over Tripoli would make it a “military zone”.
“The caretaker government wants to see an end to the proxy war going on in its second city killing civilians and the local economy. But how the military will deal with the warring factions will be a big test,” Al Jazeera’s correspondent said.
However, residents, fighters and a local politician said on Tueaday it was unlikely to end soon despite army efforts that saw them arrest 21 fighters in Tripoli.
The military intervention came in the wake of a man’s death on Monday in Lebanon’s second biggest city, precisely in its Alawite district of Jabal Mohsen, raising the death toll of three-day long sectarian clashes to 11.
|The Stream discusses tensions swelling along the Lebanon-Syria borders.|
Alawite and Muslim Sunni residents of Tripoli, only 30 kilometres away from the Syrian borders, have been locked in sporadic waves of deadly violence for almost a year, killing more than 100 people.
Lebanon’s sectarian groups side with rivalry parties in the neighbouring Syrian conflict. While Lebanese Alawites back Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad, their Sunni neighbours support rebels battling to end his regime.
Sectarian tensions between the neighbouring areas dates back to the Lebanese civil war, but has exacerbated by the war across the border.
Clashes since Saturday have wounded at least 61 people in Tripoli, among them 12 members of the Lebanese army, which responded to the sources of fire, security sources said.
Four people in the city died on Sunday, including two men shot by a sniper while they were driving a truck, an off-duty soldier and a women who died of wounds suffered a day earlier.
Schools and businesses have closed down as snipers, explosives and gunfire claimed lives.