Lebanon’s army says it will step in to prevent further bloodshed after the clashes that followed the funeral of the country’s intelligence chief. This comes amid fears that Syria's conflict could spill across the border.
A statement issued by the Lebanese army on Monday warned that it would take "firm measures" against any groups that resort to violence.
"We will not allow Lebanon to once again be turned into a battlefield for regional conflicts," the statement said.
The army's high command also called on Lebanon's politicians to exercize caution when making public statements in order to avoid inflaming the already high tensions in the country.
Beirut was reported to be much quieter than usual on Monday, with many businesses remaining closed due to the fear of more violence.
Troops were deployed to areas where at least five people were killed and many others injured in gun battles that broke out in the hours that followed the funeral of Brigadier-General Wissam al-Hassan on Sunday. The army said Lebanese soldiers were also involved in clashes after they had been fired upon by gunmen. Immediately after the funeral service, dozens of protesters attempted to storm a government building to demand that Prime Minister Najib Miyati step down.
Several opposition politicians have also demanded that Miyati resign. They accuse him of having ties to Syrian President Bashar Assad, who they believe was behind the car bombing that killed Hassan and a number of others on Friday. Hassan had helped uncover a bomb plot that led to the arrest and indictment in August of a pro-Damascus Lebanese government minister.
Hassan was also involved in an investigation implicating Syria and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minster Rafik al-Hariri.
On Saturday, Mikati offered his resignation to make way for a government of national unity, but President Michel Suleiman asked him to stay on temporarily in the interest of maintaining the fragile stability in the country.
pfd/sej (AFP, dpa, Reuters)