Clashes between groups, for and against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, took place yesterday in Beirut following the killing of a religious personality in northern Lebanon. Lebanese media reported the episode stressing the government’s calls for calm, as an investigation into the death of Sheikh Ahmad Abdel Wahed, known for his critical positions toward Damascus has begun. Wahed was killed yesterday along with his driver apparently for failing to stop at an army checkpoint in the town of Koueikhat, in the northern region of Akkar.
Immediately after news of the death was announced, groups of protesters blocked several roads in Akkar, Beirut and the Bekaa Valley. In the Lebanese capital, opposing groups have clashed, however, and automatic weapons were also used; two people were killed and several others injured. In these hours the army is reopening the roads and highways blocked by protesters.
According to the official press agency NNA, Prime Minister Najib Mikati has chaired an extraordinary session of Security Council after which he appealed for calm. His message was also endorsed by the opposition leader and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, although other politicians have issued strong and contrasting statements..
Yesterday’s clashes come in the wake of an intermittent wave of clashes that has been taking place over the past few weeks involving some neighborhoods in Tripoli whereby ten people have been killed. The clashes involved groups for and against Assad.
Caught between Syria and Israel, Lebanon has historically been affected by events in neighboring countries, particularly Syria. The current crisis that started over a year ago has driven thousands of refugees in Lebanon, but Syria has also rekindled its old rivalries within its rich and complex religious and ethnic mosaic.