BEIRUT — Several people were injured in a brawl that broke out late Thursday evening between Lebanese and Syrian nationals near St. Maron's Church in Doura, at the northern entrance to Beirut, state-run National News Agency (NNA) reported.
It was not clear whether the fight was connected to recent rising rhetoric by Lebanese officials against Syrian refugees, including caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi's call on Thursday for a "crackdown" on some Syrians.
Videos were circulating on social networks on Thursday night, showing a crowd gathered around a building in the neighborhood and shouts from all sides. "Bring back my rifle! Bring back my rifle!" screams one person. One person is heard commenting: "They've come to attack all the Syrians."
NNA reported that the "tension" in Doura was caused by "a dispute between some young Syrian migrants and other young Lebanese," without further details.
Local media reported that the army evacuated a building occupied by displaced Syrians after the fight.
The army and the Internal Security Forces have not officially commented on the incident.
An army official did not immediately respond to L'Orient-Le Jour's requests for further details, while a source in the ISF, however, said he could not confirm whether anyone was injured.
"In this neighborhood, a minor dispute can escalate quickly," said 30-year- old Tony to L'Orient Today's reporter near the scene of conflict.
Tony said that the dispute initially erupted between two Lebanese individuals. "One of them is the owner of a factory employing Syrians. He then called on his Syrian employees to protect him," he added.
Another local resident said that "the owner of the factory's wife had a road accident with a driver who was holding a phone. The phone fell from his hand and broke, and the man requested compensation [from the factory owner]."
"The owner of the factory offered him LL 50,000. Tension brewed, and then the factory owner came down with his employees," he explained.
"Subsequently, the police and the army arrived and controlled the situation," he concluded.
While Lebanese authorities and many political figures are increasingly urging the repatriation of Syrian refugees, rights groups and the UN believe that a safe return is impossible given ongoing warfare and arbitrary arrests in Syria.
On Thursday, Mawlawi issued a series of circulars that aim to tighten security measures against Syrians, notably on motorcycle traffic and "the phenomenon of begging" in Beirut.
Reporting contributed by Lyana Alameddine