BAALBEK: Lebanese soldiers took over security checkpoints manned by Hezbollah in the party’s eastern stronghold of Baalbek yesterday, a day after a Shia-Sunni shoot-out killed four people, a Hezbollah source said.
It was the second time this week that Hezbollah has handed control of its checkpoints to the army, after the military also deployed in the southern suburbs of Beirut.
“We have handed over to the Lebanese army our checkpoints at the entrances and in the centre of the city,” a Hezbollah source said.
“We are now working on handing over other checkpoints, until the military takes control of them all and it becomes responsible for security.”
Hezbollah set up its own security checkpoints in areas it controls after bombings that wounded more than 50 people on July 9 and killed 27 on August 15.
Militants were deployed for weeks to search vehicles and check people’s identity cards.
Yesterday’s handover comes a day after four people, including two Hezbollah fighters, were killed in a clash with Sunni gunmen in Baalbek.
A fifth man, a Lebanese soldier, died yesterday after being wounded during the clash.
It was not immediately clear what triggered the fighting at the Hezbollah-manned checkpoint.
“We were preparing to hand over the checkpoints to the army before yesterday’s incident, but the incident delayed the handover by a day,” said the Hezbollah source.
A correspondent in Baalbek said Hezbollah militants had withdrawn from the checkpoints, and that the city was calm despite Saturday’s firefight.