Rival Sunni and Alawite
factions fought on Saturday some of the heaviest gunbattles seen in
Lebanon's second largest city since the dark days of the the civil war
which ended more than two decades ago. The latest bout of fighting here
in Tripoli underlines Lebanese worries that the violence that has
engulfed neighboring Syria over the past year is spreading across the
border, aggravating unhealed wounds from the past and stirring fresh
tensions that they fear could trigger a new civil war in Lebanon.
"We cannot be soft
dealing with the Alawites and the Shiites because they have decided to
slaughter all the Sunnis in Lebanon and Syria," says Sheikh Bilal Masri,
a militant Sunni cleric from the Bab Tebbaneh neighborhood of Tripoli.
The Alawite sect is an obscure branch of Shiite Islam which forms the
backbone of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
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