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Lebanese Army Urges Calm After Night of Clashes

  • Edward Yeranian

Lebanese army convoy secures portions of Beirut after a night of violent clashes, October 22, 2012.

Lebanese army convoy secures portions of Beirut after a night of violent clashes, October 22, 2012.

Lebanon's army is urging the country's political leaders to exercise caution when expressing their opinions, in a bid to calm "unprecedented" tensions.
The army's statement comes after clashes broke out in several areas, following the killing of a senior security official on Friday.

MAP: Kaskas neighborhood of Beirut, Lebanon

MAP: Kaskas neighborhood of Beirut, Lebanon

In Beirut, army tanks deployed in flashpoint districts after clashes between supporters of the Shi'ite Hezbollah militia and the Sunni Future Movement. The army reopened key roads that protesters had blocked with trash bins and burning tires.
Deputy Prime Minister Samir al Muqbil, part of the current government coalition supported by the pro-Syrian Hezbollah, urged opposing sides to solve their problems calmly via democratic means, saying "there is no solution other than talks."

Derek Plumbly, U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon, also called on all sides to discuss their differences peacefully. After meeting with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, Plumbly said U.N. Security Council nations are calling on all parties to preserve the country's unity in the face of attempts to destabilize it, adding that all five nations support President Suleiman's mediation efforts.
Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, thinks the international pressure will prevent the situation in Lebanon from deteriorating further.
"There is no decision to allow these skirmishes to lead to an all-out confrontation," he said. "[Opposition leader] Sa'ad Hariri is under direct and immense pressure from the Saudis and Americans to rein in his supporters. There are spontaneous outbursts of violence, but I think the situation will soon be contained."
While the Syrian uprising is "adding fuel to mounting tensions in Lebanon," Khashan says the situation in both countries differs considerably. "[In Syria] there are foreign sources which fuel the conflict," he said, while in Lebanon, "no outside parties want to militarize the conflict."
Members of the anti-Syrian March 14th Coalition have called for peaceful sit-ins Monday in both Beirut and Tripoli to topple the government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati. According to The Associated Press, the group intiated an open-ended sit-in outside Mikati's house in his hometown of Tripoli and say they will only end the sit-in when Mikati resigns.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, however, says the only way to replace the government would be "by agreeing to a new national unity government."
Recent clashes, the worst of which were in the northern city of Tripoli, where at least three people died in gunfire exchanges, follow Sunday's funeral for Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, a Sunni Muslim intelligence chief opposed to the Syrian leadership who was killed in a Friday car bombing.
Hassan had led an investigation into a recent bomb plot that resulted in the arrest of a pro-Syrian Lebanese politician. He also led a probe that implicated Syria and Hezbollah in the truck-bomb killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.
Opposition figures blamed the attack on the Syrian government. In Paris, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also pointed to a Damascus connection, telling French television, "We don't yet know exactly who is behind this but everything indicates that this is an extension of the Syrian tragedy."
Lebanon's religious communities are divided between those who support the Syrian government – including many Shias – and those mostly from the Sunni community who back the rebels.
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