|At least seven lives lost to clashes in Beirut, Bekaa, North
|At least seven people were killed and 15 others wounded as fierce gun battles erupted in Beirut for the second day in a row on Thursday after Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah charged that a Lebanese government crackdown on his group's activities was tantamount to a "declaration of war."
Supporters of the government and the Hizbullah-led opposition were engaged in shootouts in several mixed Sunni and Shiite districts of the capital, with militants using assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, a security official said.
In scenes reminiscent of the 1975-1990 Civil War, Beirut's streets were virtually deserted as loud explosions and gunfire rocked the capital, with television footage showing gunmen in the Corniche al-Mazraa and Ras al-Nabeh districts firing at each other shortly after Nasrallah's news conference.
Plumes of smoke could be seen rising from one building in Corniche al-Mazraa.
Many cars and shops were set ablaze and scores of terrified civilians fled areas where the clashes were heaviest.
The capital's streets were empty as residents, fearing the possibility of a full-blown sectarian conflict, stayed indoors.
A security source identified two casualties as Amal Baydoun and her son Haytham Tabbara.
The source said that Tabbara was hit by sniper fire shortly before a rocket-propelled grenade hit his home, leading to his death along with his mother.
Opposition supporters overran at least three offices of the pro-government Future Movement in different areas of Beirut.
A security source said one of the raided offices was located on Mohammad al-Hout Street in Ras al-Nabeh. A similar office was attacked on Wednesday in the neighboring area of Nwairi.
The source added that among the wounded were Ziyad Abbas, who was hit by a random bullet in Karm al-Zaytoun, and Salwa Ghandour, also hit by a accident as a result of celebratory gunfire following Nasrallah's televised remarks.
A security official said that while the army's mission was to maintain order, troops could not intervene to stop the clashes.
Protesters burned tires and lit fires along the airport road, which remained blocked by large mounds of earth dumped by opposition supporters.
Many schools and businesses remained shut and flights from the airport were cancelled for most of the day, although an airport official said eight planes had taken off in the afternoon.
Opposition supporters and government loyalists also clashed Thursday morning in the Bekaa Valley. The clashes were focused in the Saadnayel and Taalbaya areas, which are known to be strongholds of parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri's Future Movement.
Eight people were wounded in the clashes in the Bekaa , a security source said.
Among the injured was Roula Bou Hamdan, who was reported to be serious condition.
Government loyalists also set up roadblocks and set tires ablaze along the main highway leading to Syria.
Fighting between rival factions also occurred in the Mina area near Tripoli, but no casualties were reported.
No clashes were reported in the South, but security sources said that government supporters had blocked the highway that connects Beirut to Sidon with burning tires near the town of Jiyyeh.
There was also a brief attempt to block the highway near Jbeil.
The Daily Star