Lebanon clashes raise fear of ´spillover´ in Syria violence (LA TIMES) By Patrick J. McDonnell and Alexandra Sandels BEIRUT, LEBANON 06/03/12)
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At least 10 are killed in sectarian street battles in Tripoli,
Lebanon, resulting from tension related to the Syrian conflict. U.N.
envoy Kofi Annan warns of a possible ´regional spillover.´
BEIRUT — Deadly sectarian street battles linked to strife in
neighboring Syria erupted Saturday in northern Lebanon, as special
United Nations envoy Kofi Annan warned about "regional spillover"
from a possible "all-out civil war" in Syria.
Gunfights raged Saturday in the Lebanese coastal city of Tripoli,
where supporters and opponents of Syria´s President Bashar Assad
exchanged machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenade volleys
across a densely populated urban cityscape.
By early evening, Lebanon´s official National News Agency reported at
least 10 people had been killed and more than two dozen wounded.
The gun battles in Tripoli highlight the bitter sectarian and
political rivalry between adjoining neighborhoods: Bab al Tabbaneh, a
largely Sunni Muslim area where anti-Assad sentiment is strong; and
the Jabal Mohsen district, a pro-Assad stronghold. Jabal Mohsen is
home to many adherents of the Alawite sect, whose members include
Assad and much of the Syrian president´s security leadership.
The split in Tripoli reflects the divisions in Syria, where Sunnis,
the majority population, have been at the forefront of the year-plus
rebellion, while Alawites and other minority groups have generally
Tension linked to the Syrian revolt has been boiling over in Tripoli
for months, occasionally resulting in open urban warfare.
But the intensity of Saturday´s clashes renewed concern that the
fighting next door could destabilize Lebanon, with its own complex
mix of rival sects and history of civil strife.
Late Saturday, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Interior
Minister Marwan Charbel rushed to Tripoli in a bid to end the latest
round of clashes there, underscoring the gravity of the situation.
Meanwhile, in Qatar, Annan gave one of his bleakest assessments to
date of the situation, conceding that his six-point peace plan is in
"The specter of all-out civil war, with a worrying sectarian
dimension, grows by the day," Annan said in an address to ministers
in Doha, the Qatari capital. "The crisis is having regional
Annan, who has acknowledged being frustrated, again put the onus on
Assad to "make bold and visible steps immediately to radically change
his military posture and honor his commitment to withdraw heavy
weapons and cease all violence."
The Syrian government maintains that it has complied with Annan´s
peace plan and blames armed "terrorists" — its shorthand for
antigovernment rebels — for having failed to stop the violence. The
U.N. and independent experts say both sides have largely ignored the
In a pointed warning, Annan said that "things cannot continue as they
are," though he did not elaborate on what the next step might be.
Qatar, a small but wealthy monarchy that has assumed a robust role in
regional affairs, urged Annan to set a deadline for his Syrian peace
mission and asked the U.N. Security Council to consider other
"It is unacceptable that the massacres and bloodshed continue while
the mission is ongoing indefinitely," declared Qatari Prime Minister
Sheik Hamad bin Jassim al Thani, whose government supports the Syrian
In Tripoli, authorities said, gunfire broke out around midnight
Friday and continued sporadically through the night, intensifying
Video from the city showed plainclothes gunmen squeezing off AK-47
rounds while crouching behind walls, apartment buildings and mounds
of tires, as armored vehicles carrying Lebanese security forces
rumbled through the deserted streets.
The National News Agency reported that "rocket bombs" could be heard
every 10 minutes Saturday afternoon and that snipers were targeting
people at two traffic roundabouts and along the international highway.
Amid the heightened tension related to the violence in Syria, 11
people were killed and 100 were wounded in a wave of street battles
last month in the coastal city, according to the Daily Star, a Beirut-
based English-language daily. Sandels is a special correspondent.
(Copyright © 2012 Los Angeles Times 06/03/12)
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