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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine 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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid