updated 6/22/2008 1:09:48 PM ET 2008-06-22T17:09:48

Fighting broke out in northern Lebanon on Sunday between pro- and anti-government factions leaving at least three people dead and 24 wounded, security and medical officials said.

Tension has been on the rise for several days between government supporters in Tripoli's Bab el-Tabaneh district and the opposition in the neighboring Jabal Mohsen, according to the security officials. They said machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades were used the clashes, which started around 4 a.m.

The officials said people killed included two civilians and a policeman who was on his way to work when he was hit with a bullet in the head.

The wounded were taken to several hospitals in the city, Lebanon's second largest, they said.

A military official said the fighting had eased before noon Sunday and the army was sending reinforcements to the area.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak to the media.

The area witnessed heavy fighting last month when pro-government gunmen and armed men loyal to the Hezbollah-led opposition clashed in different parts of the country. On Tuesday, clashes in the eastern Bekaa Valley left three people dead and four wounded.

The latest deaths raise the number of people killed in violence since last month to 87. More than 200 have been wounded.

An Arab-mediated deal in May got Lebanon's Western-backed parliament majority and the Hezbollah-led opposition to agree to form a national unity government and halt the spiraling political crisis that had escalated into violence and pushed Lebanon to the brink of a new civil war.

The deal, signed May 21 in Doha, Qatar, calls for forming 30-member Cabinet in which Hezbollah and its opposition allies have veto power over government decisions. Former army chief, Michel Suleiman, was elected by parliament as a consensus president and sworn in four days after the agreement was signed.

But tension has been increasing in recent weeks because Prime Minister Fuad Saniora has been facing difficulties forming the new Cabinet. On Saturday, Saniora rejected opposition calls to step down.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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