Snipers kill 3 as sectarian clashes flare in Lebanon’s Tripoli

Updated 07 December 2012

Snipers kill 3 as sectarian clashes flare in Lebanon’s Tripoli

BEIRUT: Three men were killed by sniper fire in the Lebanese port city of Tripoli yesterday during sectarian clashes between gunmen loyal to opposing sides in neighboring Syria’s civil war, residents said.
Eight people have now been killed and 73 wounded in fighting in the city that started on Tuesday, the latest bout of violence that has roots in Lebanon’s own 15-year civil war but which has intensified as Syria’s conflict has polarised Lebanese society.
Tensions have been high since at least 14 Sunni Muslim Lebanese and Palestinian gunmen from north Lebanon were killed in a Syrian town close to the border a week ago by Syrian government forces.
They appeared to have joined mainly Sunni insurgents waging a 20-month-old revolt against Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose Alawite faith is derived from Shiite Islam.
Syrian state television has shown graphic footage of the dead Lebanese men, riddled with gunshot wounds.
Tripoli is a majority Sunni city and mostly supports the uprising in Syria, but it also has an Alawite minority and street fights between Sunni and Alawite gunmen have erupted several times since the revolt began.
The clashes on Thursday took place between gunmen from Tripoli’s Sunni neighborhood of Bab Al-Tabbaneh and the Alawite area of Jabal Mohsen. Two of those killed were from Jabal Mohsen and the third from Bab Al-Tabbaneh, but it was unclear if they were involved in the fighting or civilians.
Residents in Tripoli said they had heard heavy gunfire overnight as soldiers tried to stop clashes. The army said two of its soldiers had been wounded and that it had arrested five men on suspicion of opening fire.
Lebanon’s population is deeply divided over Syria’s crisis, with Shiite political and guerrilla movement Hezbollah and its allies supporting Assad and the country’s Sunni-led March 14 opposition bloc backing the revolt.
Politicians in the small Mediterranean state have agreed to distance themselves from the turmoil in its neighbor, but Syria’s deputy foreign minister said yesterday more should be done to prevent Lebanese fighters joining rebels in his country.
“We turn to the Lebanese government and we say, enough. When the situation is linked to the killing of Syrians, it is no longer possible to maintain the position of neutrality,” Faisal Maqdad said in an interview with Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV. He did not elaborate on what measures should be taken.
Assad’s opponents blame Syria — whose troops were garrisoned in Lebanon until 2005 — for the unresolved October killing of Wissam Al-Hassan, a Lebanese security official who was leading an investigation that implicated Damascus and Hezbollah in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour asked the Syrian ambassador to hand over the bodies of the gunmen killed in the Syrian town a week ago, after their families protested in Tripoli and demanded the Lebanese government return the dead and determine the whereabouts of the missing.
The bodies will be returned on Saturday, an event which could inflame tensions along Tripoli’s Syria Street, the main thoroughfare dividing Bab Al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen.

Jordan weighs up Russian offer for voluntary return of Syrian refugees

Destroyed buildings following an explosion on Aug. 12 at an arms depot in a residential area in Syria’s Idlib province city of Sarmada. (AFP)
Updated 16 August 2018

Jordan weighs up Russian offer for voluntary return of Syrian refugees

  • Russia has offered to repatriate the Syrians by the end of 2018 but Jordan does not want to force displaced Syrians to return to their homeland
  • Jordan would benefit from reopening its border with Syria, but also carried risks of terrorists enter the country with fake IDs

AMMAN: Russia will help Jordan repatriate more than 150,000 Syrian refugees who fled fighting with the Assad regime in the country’s south, a Jordanian official said.

The official said Russia will repatriate the Syrians by the end of 2018 following the establishment of a center near the border with Syria to process their paperwork.

Jordan’s Minister for Media Affairs Jumana Ghneimat said the Russian proposal has been under discussion.

The Jordanian government refused to force displaced Syrians to return to their homeland, she said.

“It is up to the refugee to decide whether he wants to return, although the presence of large numbers of Syrians has become a burden for Jordan.”

The refugees are mainly from the war-ravaged provinces of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida, the scene of fierce clashes between rebels and Assad government forces. 

Ghneimat said the establishment of a processing center nine kilometers from the border with Syria was part of Russia’s larger proposal for the return of the refugees.

Asked about the reopening of the Nassib border crossing, the minister said it was up to Syria to decide if the crossing would be operational.

The Assad regime had not asked Jordan to reopen the border, she said.

The Jordanian border crossing of Jaber is ready to operate and roads leading to the site are secure, Ghneimat said.

A technical team, including several ministry representatives, visited the crossing last week on a tour of inspection.

Jordan would benefit from reopening the border, which is an important avenue for trade with Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and several European countries, a transport ministry official said.

But reopening the border carried risks, including a fear that terrorists would enter the country with fake IDs, the official said.

The closure of the Jordan-Syrian border had severely affected Jordan’s transport sector, the head of the Syndicate of Jordanian Truck Owners said.

But he said that Jordanian trucks are ready to carry goods to Syria as soon as the border crossing is reopened. Before the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011, about 7,000 trucks drove through the crossing each day.