Lebanese fighting leaves at least 17 dead, including 12 soldiers

Sectarian gunfights, which erupted Sunday in the southern town of Sidon, spilling over into the Palestinian Ain Hilwa refugee camp, between the Lebanese army and an armed Salafi Sunni militia led by the fiercely anti-Hizballah Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir, quickly spread to Beirut, Tripoli and the Beqaa Valley.

In Sidon, at least 12 Lebanese soldiers were killed fighting to crack down on Sheikh al Asir’s Jund a-Sham militia, which also has Palestinian Sunni extremist backing.  DEBKAfile: The Lebanese army’s crackdown on Hizballah’s opponents – while not raising a finger to stop the flow of the Shiite group’s forces into Syria – indicates that President Michel Sleiman has thrown his support behind pro-Syrian Hizballah. The clashes Sunday recall the onset of the Lebanese civil war. Then too the Palestinians took part in the fighting. Early Monday, armed roadblocks were thrown up in the Lebanese capital and the sounds of gunfire were heard, while in the northern town of Tripoli and the eastern Beqaa Valley, Lebanese troops and Sunni militias were engaged in firefights.  

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