The decision came after recent clashes between the Sunni and Alawite districts of Tripoli resulted in 15 deaths and 100 injuries, including Lebanese soldiers deployed as peacekeepers. The clashes are linked to the Syrian crisis, with some Alawites in Jebel Mohsen expressing support for the Syrian government against the Sunni-backed rebels.
Mikati spoke at the end of a meeting with President Michel Suleiman and the commander of the armed forces, Gen. Jean Kahwagi, in which they discussed the events in the city.
The decision was made under Article 4 of the Defense Act, which gives the government the power to turn control of any area deemed to be a danger to national security over to the armed forces.
Tensions in the city have been escalating since the deadly bombing of two Sunni mosques in the city earlier this year, which killed almost 50 people, the deadliest single act of violence in Lebanon since the country’s civil war that ended in 1990.
Sheikh Nabil Rahim, a member of the Association of Muslim Scholars told Asharq Al-Awsat that “efforts were ongoing by all parties to bring the clashes to an end, but to no avail.”
Rahim said: “In order to reach a temporary settlement, Bab Al-Tabbaneh residents want a speedy investigation into the bombing of two mosques in Tripoli last August, and for all those responsible to be brought to justice. It is no good accusing Ali Eid [former Alawite MP and a community leader in Jebel Mohsen] of involvement in the bombings without interrogating him while Islamists are being pursued for lesser crimes.”
Sunni Bab Al-Tabbaneh fighters have surrounded the Shi’ite Jebel Mohsen area for 20 days, in protest against Eid’s refusal to appear before the court to answer charges that he helped suspects in the bombings escape Lebanon.
Fighters in Bab Al-Tabbaneh, however, fear arrest if the situation calms down and the army takes control of the area. A source in Bab Al-Tabbaneh who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Asharq Al-Awsat that “negotiations focus on the suspension of warrants issued against armed men in Bab Al-Tabbaneh, as was the case with those accused of assaulting government minister Faisal Karami.”
Meanwhile, the Lebanese army continued to increase security measures in Tripoli on Monday, in the areas of Jaeal Mohsen, Bab Al-Tabbaneh, Qubbah and others, in order to restore stability to the city.
The army commander said: “These measures included regular patrols, the erection of checkpoints, dealing with snipers, removal of bunkers, and raids on armed groups. These measures resulted in the confiscation of arms and ammunition and other military paraphernalia, including communication equipment.”