Death toll in Lebanon clashes rises to five

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The death toll from five days of clashes in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime has climbed to five, a security official said Friday.

With the clashes intensifying, another 47 people have been wounded since gun battles broke out on Monday while an interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was being aired on television.

“Fierce clashes broke out once again last night pitting gunmen from (the majority Sunni, anti-Assad) Bab al-Tebbaneh against (the Alawite, pro-Assad) Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods,” said the official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

“Fighting raged until 5:00 am (0200 GMT), and machineguns, rockets and mortar rounds were used,” he said, adding that one person was killed while an army officer and a soldier were among 10 wounded.

The latest fighting “was the fiercest in terms of the intensity of fire and the types of weapons used,” said the official.

The five killed this week were residents of Bab al-Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen.

Residents of the two impoverished neighborhoods, which have suffered frequent rounds of fighting ever since the outbreak of conflict in neighboring Syria in 2011, have fled their homes for other parts of the city.

Schools and universities have been closed in Tripoli since mid-week.

Lebanon is deeply divided into pro- and anti-Damascus camps.

The division has widened since Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah admitted in May it was sending fighters into Syria to support Assad's troops.

Small radical Sunni organizations have also sent men across the border to fight alongside the rebels.

Lebanon was dominated politically and militarily by Damascus for 30 years until 2005.