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Syria-fueled violence kills three in Lebanon's Tripoli - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Sunni gunmen clash with their Alawite neighboors in the al-Shaarani neighborhood in the Lebanese northern coastal city of Tripoli on November 30, 2013.

Sunni gunmen clash with their Alawite neighboors in the al-Shaarani neighborhood in the Lebanese city of Tripoli on November 30, 2013.

Tripoli, Lebanon, Reuters—Three people were killed overnight in fighting in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, security sources said on Sunday, raising to nine the death toll in 24 hours of violence fueled by sectarian tensions over Syria’s civil war.

The clashes between Tripoli’s Alawite minority, which supports Syria’s Alawite President Bashar al-Assad, and majority Sunni Muslims who back the Syrian rebels, is the latest round of violence which has killed more than 100 people in the Mediterranean city this year.

Gun battles have broken out five times since March, killing dozens of people, and twin car bombs at Sunni Muslim mosques in Tripoli killed 42 people in August. The latest clashes were preceded by repeated attacks on Alawite targets over the last week in which several people were wounded.

Tripoli residents said the sounds of heavy gunfire and rocket explosions echoed across Lebanon’s second city from midnight to 6 am.

The city was quieter after dawn, they said, with soldiers patrolling otherwise empty streets of the rival neighborhoods, but occasional bursts of gunfire continued.

Security sources said the dead were all from the Sunni Muslim Bab al-Tabbaneh district. Dozens of people have been wounded since the battle erupted on Saturday morning, including nine soldiers and several people from the Alawite neighborhood of Jebel Mohsen, they said.

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a Sunni Muslim from Tripoli, held talks with Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and other security officials on Saturday to discuss how to end the violence, which erupted despite the deployment of soldiers in both districts.

Around 150 relatives of the victims of the August car bombs protested in a Tripoli square on Sunday, calling for a campaign of civil disobedience until the suspects behind the attacks—which they blame on the Alawites—were held to account.

They called for electricity and water supplies to be cut off from Jebel Mohsen and vowed they would not back down on their demands.

The divisions in Tripoli, 20 miles from the Syrian border, reflect the sectarian gulf across Lebanon over Syria’s civil war. Sunni Muslims have crossed the border to fight alongside anti-Assad rebels, while Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbollah militia has helped Assad regain the military initiative.

But tensions in Tripoli have festered between the Sunni Muslim majority and the small Alawite community since Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, when Alawites allied with Syrian troops to battle Sunni Islamist fighters in Tripoli.

“The story in Tripoli is complex and hard,” Charbel told Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television on Sunday. “The conflict is not new, or from the last couple of years. It is from the 80s and 90s. Those differences are still there—the people change but the thinking is the same.”

Poverty and unemployment in the former industrial center, which worsened as politicians focused post-war investment into the capital Beirut, has also made it easier for militias to win recruits in a conflict which Tripoli’s Alawite minority see as a battle for their survival.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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