Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The civil war in Syria continues to take its toll on Lebanon, with a spate of clashes between Sunni opponents and Shi’ite supporters of the regime of Bashar Al-Assad erupting over the last week in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.
Violence escalated after militias from the Sunni majority Bab Al-Tabbaneh district blamed Shi’ite armed groups in the Jabal Moshsen district of carrying out twin attacks at Sunni mosques in Tripoli in August.
Sunni–Shi’ite violence has killed six people and injured dozens of others over the past week.
Estimates say that 50 shells fell on Tripoli on Friday alone.
Given the gravity of the security situation in Lebanon, President Michel Sleiman cancelled his visit to Austria on Friday.
For his part, caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati emphasized the importance of using security and judicial procedures and adopting more sedate rhetoric.
In a press conference on Friday, the former director-general of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, said: “Enough is enough. What is happening is not acceptable and must stop immediately.”
“Tripoli has witnessed 17 attacks since May 7,” he added.
Rifi slammed the government for not “arresting the criminals behind the bombings at Al-Salam and Al-Taqwa mosques,” adding that “we are expecting the government to quickly take steps to prevent the situation in Tripoli from escalating.”
Speaking exclusively to Ashraq Al-Awsat, Sunni cleric Sheikh Nabil Rahim slammed the government for “being lax towards investigations,” accusing it of “negligence.”
“No one wants [the situation to] to escalate,” he said, adding, “The solution in Tripoli depends on the resolution of the Syrian crisis.”
One imam of a Sunni mosque in Bab Al-Tabbaneh, Walid Taboush, did not hide his fears that his neighborhood and Jabal Mohsen would “pay the highest price” in Lebanon because of the civil war in Syria.
According to Taboush, “Some are seeking political gains from this fighting,” adding, “The battle for Qalamoun [in Syria] will be crucial for the fate of Lebanon and Syria.”
“Opening the Tripoli front may be in the interest of several sides, both local and regional. But it is our duty to neutralize Tripoli by all means,” he said.
Taboush called on Sleiman and Mikati to intervene in order to “bring together the warring sides and achieve a quick reconciliation.”