Shootout erupts between supporter of Shiite Hezbollah and a Sunni conservative group in mixed residential area.
Two Lebanese men, including a senior member of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, were killed in Beirut on Tuesday in clashes between supporters of the Shi'ite militant group and a Sunni faction, security sources said.
They said the clashes were sparked by a fight between a supporter of Hezbollah and another from the Sunni al-Ahbash faction in the neighborhood of Burj Abi Haidar in Beirut.
It then escalated and machine guns and rocket propelled grenades were used, the sources and witnesses said. It was not clear who started the shooting.
"The toll now is two killed. They are both from Hezbollah," a security source said, adding: "One of them is Mohammad Fawaz who is in charge of Burj Abi Haidar sector".
Other security sources confirmed that Fawaz was killed but one said that the other dead was an al-Ahbash faction supporter.
The Lebanese army was deployed in the streets of Burj Abi Haidar. Security sources said the clashes were under control but witnesses said clashes were still continuing.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah did not mention the incident during a live speech via a video link he was giving at the time of the clash.
Lebanese soldiers cordoned off the area and prevented journalists from entering, but the crackle of sniper fire and popping of rocket propelled grenades were still audible.
Gunmen stood on the corners and peering down alleyways in the neighborhood while families ran for cover. Ambulances rushed to the scene and an elderly man was loaded into a stretcher clutching his neck.
Tuesday's violence was the worst clash since May 2008, when Hezbollah gunmen swept through Sunni neighborhoods of Beirut after the pro-Western government tried to dismantle the group's telecommunications network.
The fighting at the time brought the country to the brink of a new civil war.
Lebanon has a history of deadly sectarian strife. Tensions have been running high in recent weeks over signs a UN tribunal could indict Hezbollah in the 2005 killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Nasrallah has said he has information that the tribunal will implicate Hezbollah members, but he says the tribunal is an Israeli project and has no credibility.
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