SIDON UNDER FIRE: Here, an unknown group films shooting into the Lebanese coastal city of Sidon on Sunday. They target Bilal Bin Rabah mosque from the hill of Mar Elias in Sidon. At least 15 Lebanese army soldiers were killed on the same day during fighting with supporters of Sunni Sheikh Ahmed al-Assir, who is known for his opposition to Hezbollah. At least two militants were killed in the clashes, during which machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades were used.
A blockade by army forces, which trapped al-Assir’s supporters in the mosque, made it difficult to confirm details.
The fighting broke out when security forces detained a supporter of the sheikh, after which al-Assir’s supporters responded by opening fire on a Lebanese Army checkpoint.
Ex-Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who heads the anti-Assad March 14th movement, placed the blame for these attacks squarely on the shoulders of Hezbollah and those “who hide behind Hezbollah’s weapons.”
“There is no excuse for breaking the law and resorting to the use of arms against the Lebanese Army,” Hariri declared, adding that the soldiers who died in these clashes are “martyrs for the entire nation.”
The Lebanese newspaper Al-Nihar quoted Interior Minister Marwan Sharbl as saying that “the army has located Sheikh Ahmed al-Assir’s militants and is doing what is necessary.”
As to whether al-Assir is present inside the mosque, the Minister said in the interview that “this information is in the hands of the Army.”
The Lebanese Army released a statement saying, “the Lebanese Army lost a number of martyrs and many were injured. It is unfortunate that they fell not by the enemy’s bullets but by the bullets of a Lebanese group from the heart of Sidon. The Army has strived for months to distance Lebanon from the events in Syria, and to not respond to repeated political demands [that it repress] al-Assir’s group in Sidon, [in the hopes of] containing the problem.”