At least seven people have been killed and more than 100 wounded in sectarian clashes in northern Lebanon between two Muslim communities divided over Syria.
Street battles between Sunnis and Alawites in the city of Tripoli have continued now for a second night running. Lebanese army troops were forced to withdraw after coming under heavy fire when they tried to subdue the heavy sectarian fighting.
Old rivalry between the two groups has been fuelled by conflicting loyalties in the Syrian civil war.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati, himself a Sunni, yesterday appealed to both sides to end the ”absurd battle” rocking Tripoli, the country’s second-largest city. “We have repeatedly warned against being drawn into this blaze that has spread around Lebanon,” he said, speaking of the violence in Syria. He pleaded for Tripoli’s residents “not to allow anyone to transform you into ammunition for someone else’s war”.
Gunmen in the Sunni district of Bab al-Tabbaneh and their Alawite rivals in Jebel Mohsen have exchanged gun and grenade fire, despite action by Lebanese troops deployed in the city, residents were quoted as saying by Reuters. Two of the men killed were identified as residents of Jebel Mohsen, which overlooks a predominantly Sunni area where five people died, medical sources told the agency.
Violence has flared up several times recently but locals say the last two days of clashes have been particularly intense.
The area is one of Lebanon’s most volatile sectarian fault lines and the 17-month-old, mainly Sunni, uprising in Syria against President Bashar Assad, an Alawite, has heightened lingering Sunni-Alawite tension in Tripoli.