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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid