10 held for Beirut street clash

2010-08-30 13:54
Beirut - The number of arrests linked to a street battle in which three people were killed in mainly Muslim west Beirut last week has risen to 10, Lebanon's army chief said in comments published on Monday.

"Army operations in the area are ongoing... and we have arrested 10 persons and not just four" as was previously reported, General Jean Kahwaji told the local Arabic-language daily As-Safir.

"What is required is that no one ignite a fire and then demand the army put it out," he was quoted as saying.

A deadly street battle shook the Burj Abi Haidar district in the Lebanese capital on August 24, pitting supporters of Shi’ite group Hezbollah against those of Sunni outfit al-Ahbash, two parties with warm ties to Damascus.

Tuesday's clash, which reportedly began as a row over a parking space and escalated into a battle with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, left three dead, including Hezbollah official Mohammed Fawaz, and 11 people wounded.

Widespread armament

The incident has again put Hezbollah's arms in the limelight and raised fears of a repeat of May 2008, when gunmen supporting an alliance led by the Shi’ite group staged a takeover of west Beirut and forced the closure of the airport.

Some 100 people were killed in the week-long battle, which also involved Druze and Sunnis and was sparked by a government crackdown on Hezbollah's private communications network.

Lebanon's interior and defence ministers were scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday to forge an agreement on the control of widespread armament in Beirut in the wake of the latest clash.

But the meeting will exclude discussions on the arsenal of Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah, which argues its weapons are necessary to defend itself against its arch-foe Israel.

"Certain measures should be taken, at the very least to find a means to control armament within the capital," Interior Minister Ziad Baroud told As-Safir.

"But disarming the resistance (Hezbollah) is not on the table, even in Beirut, as we are fully aware of the sensitivity of the situation and we can agree on a unique formula for the resistance's arms in Beirut."

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