Hezbollah today said it was withdrawing its gunmen from Beirut neighbourhoods seized in sectarian clashes after the army ordered its troops to establish security and called on fighters to clear the streets.
But while tensions in the capital appeared to be defusing, at least 12 people were killed and 20 wounded when pro- and anti-government groups fought in a remote region of northern Lebanon, Lebanese security and hospital officials said. It was the heaviest toll for a single clash since sectarian fighting began on Wednesday.
Hezbollah and its allied seized large swaths of Muslim west Beirut yesterday, demonstrating their military might in a power struggle with the government.
Western-backed Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, in his first public statement since the sectarian violence erupted, said Lebanon can no longer tolerate Hezbollah having weapons. He called on the army to restore law and order and remove gunmen from the streets and accused Hezbollah of staging a coup.
After Saniora’s speech, the army called for gunmen to withdraw from the streets of Beirut and reopen the roads.
It ordered army units “to continue to take measures on the ground to establish security and spread state authority and arrest the violators.”