Ten held over Beirut clash amid arms control talks
Beirut: Ten people have been arrested over a Beirut street clash that left three dead last week, the Army chief said in comments published on Monday, as the government headed for talks on arms control in the capital.
"Army operations in the area are ongoing... and we have arrested 10 persons and not just four" as was previously reported, Lebanon Army chief General Jean Kahwaji was quoted by Arabic-language daily As-Safir as saying.
"What is required is that no one ignites a fire and then demands the Army put it out," he said.
The clash last Tuesday shook the Burj Abi Haidar district in the Lebanese capital, pitting supporters of Shi’ite group Hezbollah against those of Sunni outfit Al-Ahbash, two parties with warm ties to Damascus.
The fight, 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.
Tuesday's incident has again put widespread armament in Beirut in the limelight and raised fears of a repeat of May 2008, when gunmen supporting a Hezbollah-led alliance staged a takeover of west Beirut.
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 discuss the control of arms in Beirut.
"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."
Tuesday's clash has sparked a harsh exchange of words between Sunni Hariri's parliamentary bloc and Shi’ite Hezbollah, the only party that did not disarm after the 1975-1990 civil war and which argues its arsenal is necessary to defend Lebanon against Israel.
"No one is above the law and the state alone is responsible for managing public affairs," Hariri said on Sunday night at an iftar, a fast-breaking meal during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
"Tours of the area in Burj Abi Haidar where the clash took place only aim to further deepen division," Hezbollah MP Mohammed Raad said, referring to Hariri's visit to the scene last week.