Beirut shooting during funeral kills 2

Rival factions to meet and discuss solution in the wake of Hizbullah seizing swaths of Muslim Beirut.

shiite gunman beirut 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
shiite gunman beirut 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Unknown gunmen opened fire on a funeral procession Saturday in a Sunni neighborhood of Beirut killing two and wounding six, a day after Shiite gunmen swept through the Lebanese capital's Muslim sector, police said. The shooting in the neighborhood of Tarik Jadideh underlined the state of lawlessness that has engulfed the Lebanese capital's Muslim sector since sectarian fighting erupted on Wednesday resulting in Hizbullah's takeover of neighborhoods from Sunnis loyal to the US-backed government. Police said troops have captured the attacker. An Associated Press photographer who witnessed the shooting said the attack came as a procession of 200 people headed toward a nearby cemetery to bury a 24-year-old killed in this week's fighting. Several mourners attacked the photographer, punching him on the face and head, and took away both cameras. Soldiers nearby intervened to break up the crowd which attacked him and retrieved one of the cameras. Witnesses in the area said a car drove nearby and opened fire on the mourners, many of whom ran to take cover. Tarik Jadideh was a stronghold of Sunni supporters of majority coalition leader Saad Hariri. Shiite gunmen did not enter that neighborhood, where Lebanese troops deployed to prevent an onslaught by Hizbullah. Elsewhere in the capital Saturday, Beirutis cautiously ventured out in small numbers to streets held by both Lebanese troops and small bands of Shiite gunmen. Beirut had a quiet night after the worst sectarian violence since the end of the 1975-90 civil war. But the violence moved outside the capital, leaving five more people dead. Counting in the deaths in the funeral shooting, the overall toll since Wednesday stood at 22 killed and dozens wounded. In Beirut's western Muslim sector, the focus of the fighting, most Hizbullah gunmen had pulled out leaving just small bands of their Shiite Amal allies to patrol the streets. The army, meanwhile, reinforced its positions around the city and set up checkpoints. People ventured out to check on their shops, cars and to stock up on food after days of being trapped inside by the fighting. Prior to the shooting at the funeral, life in Tarik Jadideh was struggling to return to normal and many shops were open amid very heavy military presence that saw armored personnel carriers and jeeps stationed at every intersection. While the neighborhood's electronics shops remained closed, restaurants, grocers and mobile phone had reopened and people were sweeping up the broken glass from outside their shops. In nearby Zaidaniyeh, which also saw heavy fighting earlier in the week, residents were cleaning up and assessing the damage. In commercial Hamra Street, where uniformed Hizbullah gunmen had marched on Friday in a show of force, a few shops had opened but traffic remained thin. The Christian sector of Beirut was peaceful and was not involved in the violence. The army, which has stayed on the sidelines during the latest violence, brought in more armor and troops to seal off neighborhoods where top pro-government leaders - Hariri of the Sunnis and Walid Jumblatt of the Druse - were holed up in their residences. Violence also erupted in the mountain town of Aley east of Beirut. Four people were killed Friday night there. Another civilian died in the clashes in the southern city of Sidon. Hizbullah moved Thursday to seize the Sunni neighborhoods of Beirut after its leader Hassan Nasrallah accused the US-backed government of "declaring war" on his group by a recent decision to consider the group's communications network illegal and to remove the airport security chief for alleged ties to the militants. The rout of government supporters was a blow for Washington, which has long considered Hizbullah a terrorist group and condemns its ties to Syria and Iran. President Shimon Peres said Friday that it was clear that this onslaught was part of Iran's attempts to take over the Middle East. "It is a tragedy for Lebanese residents," added Peres. "It has no connection whatsoever with Israel. It is internal conflict." "As a human being and as an Israeli I pray that a civil war is avoided," he said, Army Radio reported. Also commenting on the clashes, Syrian President Bashar Assad said that the situation is a result of internal Lebanese politics, report Army Radio Friday evening. He said he hoped that a solution would be found promptly. The United States denounced Hizbullah and criticized Syrian and Iranian support. Hizbullah has shut Lebanon's airport by barricading the road leading to it. The seaport also was closed.