Syrian civil war spills over into Lebanon

Clashes in Tripoli between pro and anti Assad supporters killed 13 and wounded dozens. It appears that Lebanese are choosing sides in the Syrian conflict and are willing to kill those who disagree with them.


Bloody clashes between pro- and anti-Syrian regime fighters raged on early Sunday in Tripoli, Lebanon, a day after the deadliest outburst of violence there in recent weeks indicated Syria's turmoil continues spilling across borders.

Twelve people were killed and about 50 were wounded in fighting on Saturday, the state-run National News Agency reported.

The clashes continued early Sunday morning, killing at least one person, NNA said.

But government intervention appears to have calmed the situation.

After meeting with leaders from the different factions involved in the clashes, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel announced that national security forces would enter the area to enforce a cease-fire Sunday morning.

Tripoli residents and the NNA news agency said Sunday that Tripoli was quiet after the morning clashes, suggesting fighters apparently adhered to the cease-fire.

At one point on Saturday, a continuous stream of rockets hindered national security forces' attempts to secure the area, the news agency said. One rocket exploded over a well-known castle in the city, while another landed some distance away.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati went to Tripoli to assess the security situation, state news reported.

The sectarian violence in Tripoli -- which is on the Mediterranean coast, about 50 miles from Homs, Syria -- mirrors the tensions in its neighboring nation.

Clashes in both nations pit Sunnis, who make up the majority of the Syrian opposition and population, against Alawites and other Shiites, who are dominant in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

Sunnis are the majority in northern Lebanon, where Tripoli is located and where anti-Assad factions are relatively strong. The Syrian president, meanwhile, has more support in southern Lebanon and among members of the powerful Shiite militant and political group Hezbollah, which is considered a terrorist organization by U.S. authorities.

The Syrian conflict is an excuse for long time enemies in Lebanon to battle for power. When Hezb'allah took control of the government last year, they did it following a parliamentary election that was won by Saad Hariri's Future Party coalition. But the Hezb'allah backed ministers in the cabinet walked out causing Hariri's coalition to fall. A new government with a pro-Syrian Sunni prime minister was formed and the pro-western Sunnis have largely been frozen out.

Tripoli is a hot spot because rival factions of Sunnis and Shias live in close proximity to one another. So far, the Christians - divided between pro and anti-Syrian factions - have remained on the sidelines. If they get involved, the prospect of another bloody Lebanese civil war becomes real.

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