As heavy gunfire continues in Lebanon’s Beirut and Tripoli, the country’s army announced it will act decisively against any demonstrators. Witnessed have reported sniper fire, gun shots and soldiers on the streets.
Five people were wounded in the gunfire, which was heard for more than an hour on Monday morning from Beirut’s Tariq Jdideh, a Sunni Muslim district which neighbors Shiite suburbs in the south of the Lebanese capital, AFP reported.
Soldiers stood on guard, keeping reporters and photographers out of the affected area. None of the officials have confirmed the reports yet.
“We call on all political leaders to be cautious when expressing their stances and opinions,” said a statement by the Lebanese army, adding that it would take “decisive measures” to prevent chaos in areas of high tension.
“Recent developments prove decidedly that the country is going through a critical time, and the level of tension in some areas has reached unprecedented levels,” the statement said.
The army also called upon the government to find a solution to the crisis.
It follows an escalation of the situation on Sunday after the funeral of top Lebanese security official General Wissam al-Hassan, who was killed by a car bomb blamed on Syria, increasing the existing tension between Lebanese groups pro and anti the Bashar al-Assad regime.
After attending the funeral for official Wissam al-Hassan, hundreds of mourners tried to storm the Grand Serail, the seat of the government and prime minister.
"Mikati leave, get out!" chanted the demonstrators addressing Prime Minister Najib Mikati. The protesters believe the government is too close to Syria, which they blame for the death of al-Hassan.
Security forces fired into the air and used teargas to disperse the demonstrators clashing with police, which resulted in dozens of injuries and two deaths.
Meanwhile, more people are putting up tents outside Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s residence, as part of a sit-in launched Sunday.
Clashes with police and gunfire also renewed in the northern city of Tripoli, Radio Voice of Lebanon reported. Witnesses on the ground heard rockets propelled-grenades and machine guns.
Monday morning a woman was killed and three people wounded by gunfire in the city’s Alawite district, the Shiite offshoot to which Assad belongs.
On Sunday night three people were reportedly killed by sniper fire there, including a nine-year-old girl, and 26 people were wounded in heavy clashes.
Lebanon’s tensions began as the Syrian conflict started spilling over, with the Lebanese Sunni Muslim population supporting the rebels and Shiites standing behind President Assad.
Tripoli has been caught up in this divide for quite some time already due to its proximity to Syria. Beirut’s instability began after top Lebanese Sunni security official General Wissam al-Hassan, who was killed by a car bomb last Friday, with the incident blamed on Syria. The assassination angered the anti-Assad constituent, leading to clashes with police.
Former Lebanese Interior Minister Ziad Baroud told al-Jazeera that it was too early to ascertain who was behind the bombing.
"We have no indication whatsoever [of who is behind this]. We know this is a strong and sad message, and we know this could destabilize the whole country," said Baroud.
Many fear that the conflict in Syria will exacerbate sectarian divisions in Lebanon.