News / Middle East

Lebanese Sectarian Clashes Spark Syria Spillover Fears

Soldiers deployed at Syria street, which divides Sunni and Alawite areas of Tripoli, Lebanon, June 3, 2012.
Soldiers deployed at Syria street, which divides Sunni and Alawite areas of Tripoli, Lebanon, June 3, 2012.
Scott Bobb
TRIPOLI, Lebanon - Sporadic sectarian clashes between two neighborhoods in Lebanon's second largest city, Tripoli, have reminded Lebanese of the brutal civil war in the 1970s and '80s which divided Lebanon along sectarian lines and is still a source of tensions.

Overnight gun battles on two recent occasions killed 25 people in Tripoli and wounded more than 60. The violence spread to Beirut where two people were killed in one incident.

The clashes in Beirut were sparked by the killing of a Sunni cleric who reportedly was active in supporting rebels battling the government of President Bashar al-Assad in neighboring Syria. The violence in Tripoli was brought on in part by the arrest of an activist suspected of sending weapons to the rebels.

Lebanese Sectarian Clashes Spark Syria Spillover Fearsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Scott Bobb, Voice of America
June 08, 2012 5:17 PM
Sporadic sectarian clashes between two neighborhoods in Lebanon's second largest city, Tripoli, have reminded Lebanese of the brutal civil war in the 1970s and '80s which divided Lebanon along sectarian lines and is still a source of tensions.
Many Lebanese Sunni Muslims sympathize with the 15 month-old uprising led by Syria's majority Sunnis. On the other hand, Lebanese of the Shi'ite branch of Islam and its Alawite offshoot support the Syrian government.
 
Lebanese Sunnis are also angry about cross-border incursions by Syrian troops. They accuse the Syrian forces of kidnapping and shooting Lebanese whom they suspect of aiding the Syrian rebels.

Weekly protests
 
They have been holding weekly demonstrations in Tripoli to protest what they say is support by the Lebanese government for the Assad government.
 
Electrician Hussein Ali, who attended a recent rally, says there have traditionally been problems between Shi'ites, Alawites and Sunnis. But, he adds, there are people from outside trying to make trouble.

A kilometer away, on the other side of a battle line marked by bullet-pocked buildings and burnt-out apartments, lies a neighborhood of Tripoli's much smaller Alawite community.

Posters of Assad and his father, the late Hafez al-Assad, are plastered on walls along the narrow streets.

Community leader Ali Fouda says some Sunnis, especially Islamist militants, are using the conflict in Syria to destabilize northern Lebanon. He said some people in Lebanon consider what's happening in Syria to be their battle.

"We wonder why they are interfering in Syria's affairs," he said.

The Syrian rebels are reported to be receiving arms from supporters in Lebanon and other Arab countries. The Syrian government is reportedly receiving arms too from its allies Iran and Russia and through the Lebanese militant faction, Hezbollah.

The head of the International Affairs Institute of the American University of Beirut, Rami Khouri, says there have always been sectarian links between Syria and Lebanon.

"The ripples are felt mostly in the Tripoli area in the north, because there you have an Alawite community, and you have some strong Sunni-Salafi communities or anti-Syrian regime [communities]," he said. "And we've had some shootings but very, very short-lived."

The U.N. and Arab League Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, visited the region recently and expressed fears of the Syrian conflict spreading.

"The crisis is having a regional spill-over in the form of tensions and incidents across the borders, abductions of nationals and foreigners and refugee flows to neighboring states. I felt the concerns of Syria's immediate neighbors very acutely in my consultations in recent days," he said.

Arms trafficking
 
The head of Human Rights Watch here, Nadim Houry, says the Lebanese government is trying to restrict arms trafficking and has an official policy of neutrality.

"But frankly it's a fig leaf because the Lebanese state or government is not unitary," he said. "And underneath that statement you've got different, big Lebanese political groups on either side, not neutral at all."
 
Northern Lebanon is a poor region with a history of smuggling. Sunnis there feel marginalized socially and economically, Houry said.
 
"There is now a mixing of all these factors and a radicalization of this community that is hearing horrible stories of what's happening in Syria and sometimes hear parts of the Lebanese government supporting the Syrian government," Houry said.
 
Still, American University of Beirut Professor Hillal Khashem does not believe the Syria fallout will cause Lebanon to explode.
 
"I don't expect the security situation to reach an alarming level because the various factions in the Lebanese political system understand the implications of insecurity and instability," he said.

Khashem said Lebanese leaders remember the civil war and respond quickly to any incident. The government has sent military reinforcements to Tripoli since the recent clashes.

Analysts also note that Russia and China refuse to support Western-led efforts to remove Assad. As a result, they say the Syrian conflict is aggravating not only regional tensions but global ones as well.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid