BEIRUT — Police and civilians fought street battles in two Lebanon neighborhoods on Friday, residents and security officials said, with three police killed in fighting that raged across some of the country’s most crowded areas.
“Tensions and violence mounted in neighborhoods across the country today,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “Some of these incidents had tragic results, as were reports of lives lost or harmed.”
Residents in part of the Beirut neighborhood of Haret Hreik, which was filled with stone and gunfire, said police were using tear gas to try to disperse crowds who took to the streets in retaliation.
About 30 others were wounded in the clashes, four seriously, the interior ministry said in a statement.
In Beirut’s southern neighborhood of Mitla, a resident told the Associated Press that security forces opened fire on protesters in the area and fired tear gas at motorists on the highway. The resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said protesters then set a security post on fire.
Elsewhere in Lebanon, security forces in the southern port city of Sidon detained six members of a Christian militia for suspected affiliation with the Islamic State, the interior ministry said, according to Reuters.
The clashes erupted in Haret Hreik as security forces tried to arrest a Shiite militant, Abdullah al-Muhajir, considered a leading member of a powerful militia loyal to Hezbollah, a powerful Shiite political and military group in Lebanon.
The force was trying to arrest Muhajir in connection with the killing of a security officer. Al-Muhajir has vowed to resist the move and has vowed to become a martyr.
Haret Hreik has been at the center of clashes in Lebanon over the past two years. It is located between the Shiite town of Dahieh and the Christian town of Masnaa and is a stronghold of Hezbollah.
More than 120 people were killed in the area in November 2016 and January 2017 when Hezbollah and other militias fought Lebanese security forces in a conflict they sought to quell by arresting dozens of Sunnis.
The Shiite guerrilla group Hezbollah is one of the most powerful forces in Lebanon and has fought alongside Syrian government forces against the insurgent and jihadist groups. Sunnis make up about a third of Lebanon’s population and have been leading protests against the government demanding equal representation in the legislature and in the military.