x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Hizbollah's opponents raise the stakes in Sidon

Shooting comes amid soaring sectarian tensions in Lebanon that have escalated because of the raging war in neighbouring Syria.

A damaged car in Abra, near Sidon, where Lebanese militants supporting opposing sides of Syria’s civil war clashed.
A damaged car in Abra, near Sidon, where Lebanese militants supporting opposing sides of Syria’s civil war clashed.

BEIRUT // A shooting by gunmen loyal to a controversial Salafist sheikh in the southern Lebanese town of Sidon on Tuesday left one man dead and several wounded, officials said.

The shooting by armed men loyal to Sheikh Ahmed Al Assir, who is fiercely opposed to the Shiite Hizbollah movement, took place in Abra, a suburb of Sidon, the security source said.

"The shooting by armed men led to the killing of a citizen and several others have been injured," the Lebanese army said after deploying forces in Sidon following the incident.

Sheikh Al Assir has alleged that Hizbollah uses apartments in Abra to stockpile weapons and accommodate fighters.

The incident comes amid soaring sectarian tensions in Lebanon that have escalated because of the raging war in neighbouring Syria.

The army said that by late Tuesday "the situation was back to normal".

Though Lebanon has officially adopted a position of neutrality in Syria's war, Shiite Hizbollah and its allies have backed the regime of the Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad.

Hizbollah troops are engaged in the fighting in Syria and this month helped Mr Al Assad's army take control of the rebel-held city of Qusayr in central Syria.

Meanwhile, the Sunni-led opposition supports the anti-Al Assad revolt that began in March 2011.

In Tripoli in northern Lebanon, frequent battles had pitted Sunnis against Alawites - an offshoot of Shiite Islam to which Mr Al Assad's clan belongs.

A Syrian rebel unit on Tuesday claimed responsibility in a video for killing four Shiite men in Lebanon, highlighting concerns that Syria's civil war has spilt in to Lebanon,

In the video, posted by a group calling itself the "Syrian Mujahideen Unit", a fighter said his brigade had killed the four men as they were trying to enter Syria. He said they were members of Hizbollah.

Another video posted by the same group showed the four men's identification cards as well as two assault rifles and two pistols the Syrian rebels say they found on the men.

* With additional reporting by Reuters