Armed Lebanese groups on opposing sides of Syria’s civil war resumed fighting in the streets of Tripoli, Lebanon restarted Saturday leaving 12 people dead and more than one hundred wounded. Opposing Sunni and Shiite militias fought again Tuesday, prompting the army to arrest 21 militiamen. Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati held talks with security officials over the weekend and put Tripoli under the command of the Lebanese army for six months to quell the violence.
The fighting highlights wider tensions between Tripoli’s Alawite minority from the Jebel Mohsen neighborhood, who support Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, and Sunni Muslim majority concentrated in the Bab al-Tabbaneh district of the city. After a Sunni gunman shot a man with ties to an Alawite militia on Saturday, a larger gunfight erupted. Deadly clashes between the adjacent neighborhoods have flared a number of times since the beginning of the year.
Lebanese army soldiers man a checkpoint following the government’s decision to place the northern city under the supervision of the army. (Photo: Reuters)
Hezbollah, the Shiite Islamic militant group in Lebanon denied any involvement in the ongoing violence in Tripoli. In an interview Tuesday, Hezbollah’s leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah claimed that Lebanon’s police force has been arming and funding the fighters. He also rejected accusations that Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war spurred the conflict in Tripoli. Hezbollah has sent fighters to Syria to support Assad, which Nasrallah says is necessary to prevent violence from spreading into Lebanon.
So far this year, violence in Tripoli has killed more than 100 people, and ultimately shows the deep divide in Lebanon over the Syrian civil war. Lebanon’s unstable sectarian politics, a legacy of the country’s 15 year civil war, could help to spread armed conflict in the region.