News / Middle East

Militias Battle Anew in Lebanon's Tripoli, Army Arrests 21 Fighters

Lebanese army soldiers man a checkpoint as they are deployed in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, Dec. 3, 2013.
Lebanese army soldiers man a checkpoint as they are deployed in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, Dec. 3, 2013.
Reuters
— Clashes resumed on Tuesday between Lebanese militias who back opposing sides of Syria's war and 21 fighters were arrested by the army as it pursued a six-month-long mandate to end bloodshed battering the city of Tripoli.
 
The conflict between the majority Sunni Muslim Bab al-Tabbaneh district and the adjacent Alawite neighborhood of Jebel Mohsen in Tripoli has killed over 100 people this year. But residents, fighters and a local politician told Reuters on Tueaday it was unlikely to end soon despite army efforts.
 
The two neighborhoods have been in on-off conflict since the 1980s but the two-and-a-half-year-old civil war in neighboring Syria pitting Alawite President Bashar al-Assad against majority Sunni rebels has opened old wounds on both sides in Tripoli, and fighting has become more frequent and intense.
 
“They [Alawites] are using big mortar bombs now,” a teenage fighter from Bab al-Tabbaneh said on Tuesday, showing pictures on his mobile of himself holding assault rifles with Sunni Islamist slogans written behind him.
 
The 19-year-old refused to give his name while sheltering from the rain in the Taqwa mosque, one of two Sunni religious compounds hit by bombs in August that killed 42 people and angered Sunni fighters even more.
 
Over the weekend, the relatives of the car bomb victims protested in a Tripoli square, demanding that leading Alawite political leaders be arrested and calling for Jebel Mohsen's electricity and water supplies to be cut off.
 
The latest clashes started after repeated attacks on Alawite targets over the last week in which several people were wounded. Ten people were killed over the weekend. The army provided no details on the 21 militiamen seized by soldiers.
 
Reuters was unable to speak to fighters and residents in Jebel Mohsen because the roads to it were cut off by sniper fire on both sides.
 
Wider Battle
 
Analysts say that the seemingly pointless battle in which neither side gains ground is being directed by regional powers who fund militia to send political messages and assert their control over Lebanon, a weak sectarian-run state wrecked by its own civil war from 1975 to 1990.
 
“Lebanon is not a sovereign country,” said Beirut-based political scientist Hilal Khashan. “Each sect has foreign patrons and they know they need foreign patrons; this country is run from the outside.”
 
Misbah Ahdab, a Sunni Tripoli politician from a secular party, said the local battle was a “regional fight between Iran and the Gulf.”
 
Sunni Saudi Arabia is locked in a struggle with Shi'ite Iran for influence across the Middle East. In Syria, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries support the rebels while Iran backs Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shi'ism.
 
Tiny, coastal Lebanon has suffered from violent spillovers of the Syrian conflict, especially in Tripoli.
 
Barring a wider regional political compromise, Ahdab said, no security measures could stop the fighting in Tripoli, especially as militia on both sides had been given “protection” by Lebanese politicians aligned with either the Gulf or Iran.
 
Sheik Bilal, a middle-aged Sunni fighter, questioned the government's credibility in imposing security in the city. “We have had 700,000 'security plans' before [but] these are all lies.”
 
The fighting has worsened the plight of local residents. A former industrial center and 70 km (40 miles) from the capital Beirut, Tripoli is now plagued by poverty and unemployment.
 
A toy shop owner who works near the front line opened his shutters on Tuesday to speak to journalists but said that business had all but ended.

“Everyone knows the criminals who are fighting but they are not arrested. They are protected.”

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
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.

AppleAndroid