Lebanon in turmoil as Shiite gunmen seize control of Beirut neighborhoods
UPDATE: 1:53PM EST
After three days of deadly street battles, Hezbollah has seized control of West Beirut, pushing Lebanon dangerously close to an all-out civil war.
At least 11 people have been killed so far.
Convoys of triumphant Shiite opposition gunmen firing celebratory shots into the air and flashing victory signs took to the streets after routing Sunni militants loyal to the Western-backed government in the deeply divided nation.
As the fighting eased, the army and police moved across areas now in the hands of Iranian- and Syrian-backed opposition forces which have been locked in an 18-month power struggle with the ruling coalition.
But as foreigners scrambled to leave the troubled nation, it was unclear what the immediate future would hold, amid fears the protracted political feud could plunge Lebanon back to the dark days of the 1975-1990 civil war.
Although the guns had largely fallen silent in the besieged capital, a security official said two opposition militants were killed in a flare-up of fighting south of Beirut, bringing the toll over three days of unrest to 13.
And both sides appeared unwilling to give any further ground to their rivals, with Hezbollah insisting that the roadblocks that have paralysed much of the nation would remain until the government meets its demands.
Pro-government forces appear to have collapsed as the Iranian-backed Shiite Hezbollah and Amal groups in Lebanon. Coming along with the violence, the TV station of Hariri's FutureMovement was forced off the air.
Shiite opposition gunmen seized control of large areas of Beirut's Muslim sector from Sunni foes loyal to the U.S.-backed government on Friday, in street battles that left 11 dead, security officials said.
With top leaders Saad Hariri of the Sunnis and Walid Jumblatt of the Druse besieged in their residences in Muslim western Beirut, officials of the pro-government majority called an emergency meeting of legislators in a mountain town in the Christian heartland northeast of Beirut, said LBC TV, a pro-government Christian station.
Prime Minister Fuad Saniora is believed to be holed up at his office in downtown Beirut, which is heavily protected by troops and police. A Hezbollah protest encampment that has been there for 17 months near his office has not made any move against the complex.