Sunday, June 24, 2007

Smoke, explosions and machinegunfire in Tripoli - again

Tripoli is a city of traditions. It is Sunday and - just like on Sunday May 20th - fighting erupts in the city.

I arrived in Tripoli at around 06.15 this morning and left the area at 09.30.

This is the situation:

One third floor apartment in the eastern part of Tripoli (in a residential area) has been surrounded by the Lebanese army. There's a ring of soldiers in nearby buildings and on the streets. At around 200 meters you can see a five floor apartment block. Smoke is coming from the third floor. From 06.15 until 07.00 it all seemed quiet. Couple of ambulances evacuate local residents, caught up in the fire between army and possible Fatah al Islam militants in the third floor apartment. Then, very heavy machine gunfire and very loud explosions. More smoke, more bangs, civilians trying to escape. It seems that special units of the Lebanese army are going from floor to floor, apparently trying to snatch Fatah al Islam militants. According to local people, the apartment belongs to the Sayyet family, who own a nearby flower shop.

For people familiar with Tripoli; the area where the fighting takes place is in the eastern part of town. Close to the Al Bayan school and around 800 meters away from the Al Manar university.

According to reports, one soldier died, seven wounded. I haven't seen this though. I only could see how civilians left the area in cars or on foot. From a certain spot, I could clearly see the apartment on the third floor being pounded by the Lebanese army. Lots of smoke and extremely loud explosions. Lots of machine gun fire. As I left the place around 09.30 the fighting was still raging.

It all started around 23.00 last night. Army attacked the apartment after being told by others that Fatah al Islam militants were using the place to store weapons. As we've seen before, the militants started shooting back.

Just to make it clear: the fighting in Tripoli is very localized - basically only around this block of apartments. Still, very surreal. Local people looked pretty shocked and scared. Another weird Sunday morning in Tripoli....
Latest news: 6 militants dead, one soldier, one policeman and two civilians. Several people wounded.
Made these three pictures this morning: The building during the fighting, Army seals of area, civilians leave nearby buildings.

Harald Doornbos

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