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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy 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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid