Archive for November, 2014

Clashes in northern Lebanon kill 5, wound others

October 25, 2014

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanese troops battled Islamic militants in the northern city of Tripoli for a second day Saturday, with five people killed and more than a dozen wounded in the clashes, the Lebanese army and state media said.

An army statement said troops surrounded the gunmen in Tripoli’s old market, exchanging fire and wounding several of them. It said it also had detained some of the fighters and seized weapons and ammunition, although some gunmen were able to flee the area.

The fighting came two days after troops killed three militants and detained a local leader in a raid in the northern Dinniyeh region. One of the three killed was Abdul-Qadir Akkoumi, a Lebanese soldier who announced in a video released earlier this month that he had defected and joined the Islamic State group, the army said.

“It was a very fierce night,” said a Tripoli resident who asked that his name not be published because of security concerns. Speaking by telephone, the man said the city’s streets were mostly empty Saturday and people avoided going near the historic market where the fighting was concentrated.

The army said later Saturday, that gunmen fired a rocket propelled grenade at an army vehicle in the nearby town of Minye, killing an officer and wounding two others. Troops also clashed with gunmen in the nearby town of Mhamra, where two soldiers were killed and several others wounded, the army statement said.

The state-run National News Agency said two civilians were killed and five civilians wounded. It was not immediately clear if there were casualties among the gunmen. Sunni militants inspired by al-Qaida and the Islamic State extremist group have killed and wounded several soldiers in a string of attacks in recent months.

The deadliest was in August, when jihadi fighters from Syria briefly overran the Lebanese border town of Arsal, capturing some 20 policemen and soldiers and killing several others. That attack was the most serious spillover of the civil war in neighboring Syria since the uprising there began in March 2011.

Lebanon is bitterly divided over the war, with Sunnis supporting the Syrian rebels and Shiites siding with President Bashar Assad’s government. The Shiite movement Hezbollah has sent fighters to support Assad’s troops. Sunni militants in Lebanon have responded with attacks on Shiites as well as security forces, who they believe are secretly dominated by Hezbollah.

Lebanon says it won’t accept more Syrian refugees

October 23, 2014

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon announced on Thursday it will not accept any more refugees from neighboring war-torn Syria, except in what authorities deem to be “exceptional” cases — a move that could prevent tens of thousands of Syrians from escaping the civil war.

Information Minister Ramzi Jreij said Lebanon can simply not handle any more refugees. The tiny Mediterranean country has 1.1 million officially registered Syrian refugees, although the number is believed to be far higher. They make up almost a quarter of the country’s population of 5 million.

The refugees have stretched the country’s already fragile infrastructure and compete with Lebanon’s poorest for low-paid jobs, causing tensions. Tens of thousands of Syrian children are out of school because there is nowhere to place them.

The Syrian refugees already in Lebanon would be encouraged to leave, said Jreij. The government would “encourage the displaced Syrians … to return to their countries, or go to other countries, by all means,” he said.

Ninette Kelley, the U.N. refugee agency’s representative in Lebanon, said the country had begun restricting the entry of Syrians since August. As a result, she said the UNHCR was receiving 75 percent to 90 percent less people seeking refugee status.

There are over 3 million Syrian refugees from the war, mostly in neighboring countries. Another 6 million have been displaced within Syria, making it one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. European countries and the U.S. have been extremely reluctant to accept Syrian refugees, leaving the burden to countries neighboring Syria — Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, which are ill-equipped to deal with the floods of people.