Lebanese armed forces continued to battle militants Sunday in the northern city of Tripoli for the third consecutive day.
Clashes began Friday, when the Lebanese army initiated raids targeting militants in the Tripoli’s neighbourhood of Bab Tabbanah, from which fighting had spread, Lebanese state owned National News Agency (NNA) reported.
So far, fighting has killed at least 19 people, including, one journalist, six soldiers, eight militants, and two civilians. There were also at least 24 wounded civilians, with scores of families forced to flee amidst the fighting.
Militants have also cut off the highway between Tripoli and Minnyeh, but the Lebanese army managed to retake it. At least two rockets were fired from the city of Arsal towards the neighbouring areas of Nabi Othman and Labweh.
Two soldiers have also been kidnapped in Tripoli. Al-Nusra, the group believed to be holding them captive, has threatened their execution. Elsewhere in the city, militants also ambushed a Lebanese military vehicle, and the Harba Mosque was hit by artillery.
Lebanese security cordoned off the Bab Tabbanah area attempting to avoid sniper fire and escape by militants.
Security forces have so far seized at least 50 explosives devices, assault rifles; rocket propelled grenades, as well as three undetonated car bombs.
The militants are believed to be linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS).
Lebanon has seen periodic spill-over from the civil war in Syria which began in 2011. Incidents have occurred particularly in Tripoli, between Sunni residents who mainly support the rebels against Bashar Al-Assad and the minority Shi’a sect, the Alawites.
Fighters from the city have also carried out attacks against Shi’a organisation Hezbollah, which has deployed thousands of fighters to support President Al-Assad.