The Army had blocked off all roads leading to Salim Slem this afternoon, following clashes after a rally by supporters of the Salfist preacher Ahmed Al Assir.
The Salim Slem corridor (above photo) is the main thoroughfare to the southern coastal highway, which leads to the airport and ultimately to Saida, where Al Assir lives.
According to news reports, it was here, near the overpass in the background (close up below) that an altercation occurred between supporters of the Amal party and those of Assir:
Nahrnet reported that a checkpoint had been set up by Amal to cut off the Assir men. If so, was it related to last night’s sound grenade reportedly thrown at an Amal office and subsequent gun fire exchange? One can only speculate.
Additionally, about an hour earlier that afternoon, Assir supporters had paraded through the streets on scooters. They had attempted to enter West Beirut but were turned around by army troops and forced to hit the corniche instead, tooting and flag waiving all the way.
The army reacted quickly following the clashes later in Salim Slem, deploying APCs and troops at several intersections in the surrounding area.
This is not the first time Assir supporters have run into trouble in Salim Slem.
I happened to be passing by the tight corridor into Beirut last October during a similar flare-up:
I saw a stretcher being carried out across the street just before I snapped this shot.
It seems a possible solution to these Salim Slem clashes would be creating an alternate route into the city for Assir supporters coming from Saida– one that does not pass by territory of rivals that can easily be blocked.
Water taxi anyone?