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

    Turkey, West in Standoff Over Syrian Refugees

    Turkish government refuses to admit refugees, the first in a wave of civilians fleeing offensive by Assad regime in northern Aleppo countryside

    Jailed American Testifies About Islamist Involvement in Mumbai Attacks

    David Headley testifies via video link that Pakistan-based Islamic terror group made two failed attempts to mount strikes in Mumbai in months prior to coordinated assault

    These Are the 10 Smartest US States

    A new report breaks down the nation's best and brightest

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.