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Lebanon: The Storm Approaches

This weekend’s fighting in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city, has not abated. The Daily Star reports:

Lebanese troops backed by armored vehicles deployed Tuesday in the northern coastal city of Tripoli to end three days of clashes between the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen that led to the killing of at least seven people and the wounding of almost 100.

Soldiers, in their hundreds, scrambled to the area in the early hours of the morning and began erecting checkpoints and conducting patrols, particularly along Syria Street that runs between Bab al-Tabbaneh, whose residents oppose Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Jabal Mohsen, whose residents back the embattled leader.

Fighting between pro- and anti-Assad Lebanese, and direct fighting between Lebanese and Syrians, also spilled over the border from Lebanon into Syria:

Lebanese Assad loyalists in the Syrian villages of Safsafa and Hamam were pitted against members of the Syrian opposition from the villages of Abu Houri and Nazahiyah in clashes that saw the use of light to medium weapons, including machine guns.

This isn’t the first time Syrians and Lebanese have been involved in clashes that crossed the porous national border:

When Mahmoud Ibrahim strolled down to the border crossing at the northern end of his village last Thursday evening, he was expecting to meet with some Syrian friends.

But awaiting the 40-year-old father of four instead at the border were four Shabbiha militiamen, from the predominantly Alawite militia loyal to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The Shabbiha dashed across the border into Lebanese territory while being covered by armed Syrian soldiers from the other side of the frontier. They used an electric stun gun to subdue Ibrahim before dragging him back across the border. Since then not a word has been heard from him, and his family have no idea where he is being held. Ibrahim’s abduction comes amid an escalation of cross-border shootings and tit-for-tat kidnappings along Lebanon’s northern frontier connected to the violence wracking Syria.

In the past week alone, several people, including an elderly woman, have been shot dead allegedly by Syrian soldiers firing into Lebanon; clashes have resumed between rival factions in the perennially troubled Tripoli, leaving at least seven people dead; and some 40 Sunni Syrians have been kidnapped in reprisal for the abduction of three Lebanese Shiites.

The longer the fight against Assad continues, the tenser Lebanon gets. Every day, the potential grows for Lebanon to erupt once again into conflict. What is now sporadic fighting in isolated spots could spread to Beirut. The army has already deployed in Tripoli. Hezbollah is still not really involved in any fighting; that could change. Lebanese civilians are preparing for the worst.

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  • Kris

    Book your tickets now for the Paris of the Middle East!

  • Bob from Ohio

    Great news for the US and Israel.

  • Matt

    As a resident of Beirut for over five years now, i disagree with the alarmist tone of the end of this post.

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