In Lebanon, a worrying sectarian spillover from Syria
Tripoli, Lebanon witnessed some of the worst sectarian fighting in the country since its civil war ended two decades ago, with Alawite and Sunni communities inflamed by the deepening war across the border in Syria.
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"Things are getting much worse than before," he says. "The terrorists who are running from Bashar al-Assad have come to Lebanon and made an army to turn north Lebanon upside down," he says, referring to Sunni militants whom the Syrian regime describe as "armed terrorists gangs" which it alleges are responsible for the violence in Syria. "This is what Saudi Arabia and March 14 want," he adds, referring to Lebanon's Western-backed parliamentary opposition.Skip to next paragraph
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The views of Sunnis in Bab Tebbaneh and the Alawites in Jabal Mohsen are mirror images. Both accuse each other of having foreign sponsors, both accuse the other of instigating each clash and both accuse the other side of having superior weapons. Eid charges that the Future Movement, the leading Sunni party headed by former prime minister Saad Hariri, is smuggling large quantities of arms into Tripoli and distributing them to their supporters.
"They all have expensive assault rifles in Bab Tebbaneh," he says. "Those people are too poor to buy food, so how could they afford these rifles if they were not given to them."
So from where do the Alawites obtain their weapons? Eid chuckles and says, "We buy them from arms dealers affiliated with the Future Movement. They may be our enemy, but money talks more than politics."
A picture of former president Hafez al-Assad, father of Bashar, hangs on the wall behind him. A bookcase is filled with hardback volumes with pictures of pro-Syrian Lebanese politicians and the leader of the militant Shiite Hezbollah stamped across the spines. Eid says that the Alawites of Jabal Mohsen are only defending their homes and have no desire to start fights with the majority Sunnis surrounding Jabal Mohsen.
"We are always accused of starting the fighting here, but we have nothing to gain from igniting a war. We are small and they [the Sunnis surrounding Jabal Mohen] are big," he says. As he speaks a crackle of machine gun fire is heard outside his office. Moments later the walkie talkie on his desk squawks and a voice announces that a woman has been wounded by fire coming from the Baddawi neighborhood on Jabal Mohsen's northern front. "You see? This happens all the time. They are attacking us first," Eid says before making inquiries over the radio to find out the status of the woman.
Out on the street, the automatic weapons fire continues along with ocassional single shot from a sniper.
Mohammed Fadel, a short, tough-looking Alawite who is in charge of some 250 fighters, shelters on a street with some of his men. He had been in the thick of the fighting the previous night.
"They kept firing at us for four hours non stop. We were fighting them at distances of just 15 meters sometimes," he says, as a loud burst of machine gun fire echoes down the street. His comrades were discussing the woman who was shot minutes before, already planning their revenge. "You will see. We are going to mess them up tonight, all their positions," says Mr Fadel. "As long as all those Sunnis with big beards continue to exist, there will be no solution."