BEIRUT, (Reuters) – Clashes broke out in the Lebanese port city of Tripoli on Tuesday between gunmen loyal to opposing sides in neighboring Syria’s civil war, wounding one person, residents said.
Tensions had been rising since the reported death in a Syrian town close to the border of at least 14 Lebanese and Palestinian gunmen from north Lebanon. They appeared to have joined insurgents pursuing a 20-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
The sectarian makeup of Tripoli has made it a flashpoint within Lebanon reflecting the worsening conflict in Syria, an uprising that is being waged mostly by Sunni Muslims and largely opposed by minorities like Assad’s own Alawite sect.
Tripoli is a majority Sunni city with a small Alawite minority and has erupted in clashes several times since the Syrian revolt began.
Residents said violence flared overnight when rocket-propelled grenades were fired by gunmen in the Sunni neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh and the Alawite area of Jabal Mohsen.
Fighting broke out on Tuesday morning after Sunni gunmen approached some Alawite shops. One person was wounded in Jabal Mohsen, residents said.
Tripoli had been on edge since news of the death and detention of the men from north Lebanon, which is largely sympathetic to the Syrian revolt. At least 14 were killed and three others detained, a Syrian security source told Reuters.
Syrian state television aired graphic video of the dead men, riddled with gunshot wounds and lying in the grass.
Families of the dead and missing have been protesting in Tripoli, demanding that the Lebanese government return the bodies and determine the whereabouts of those missing.