Syrian civil war violence spread to Lebanon’s west coast Monday, leaving two dead and 40 wounded in Tripoli clashes between pro and anti- Assad groups in a sign that Lebanon’s history of civil war may repeat itself along Israel's northern border.
At least 10 Lebanese army soldiers were wounded during the fighting in Tripoli, the Beirut Daily Star reported. Security sources said that machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) forced the army to retreat as anti-Assad Sunni Muslims fought with pro-Assad Alawites.
A wave of kidnappings in the past week, similar to those in the 15-year-old civil war from 1975 to 1990, left dozens of captives in the hands of Shi’ite Muslims who want the release of 12 Lebanese being held hostage by rebels in Syria.
“We have long warned against slipping into the smoldering fire surrounding Lebanon but it is clear that there are several parties who seek to involve Lebanon in the conflict,” Prime Minister Najib Mikati said in a statement.
Lebanon has been on the constant verge of civil war since before Syrian President Bashar Assad pulled out thousands of soldiers from the country several years ago. Pro-Syrian and Hizbullah forces have gained strength in every government and now are the dominating force in the splintered country.
Hundreds of civilians fled Tripoli as violence reigned in what one resident said was a “real war.”
Tripoli is heavily populated by Sunni Muslims, who support Syrian rebels, while the Alawites are aligned with Hizbullah, which controls southern Lebanon and faces IDF patrols on the border.
The lack of authority by the Lebanese army leaves a power vacuum that Hizbullah, financed by Iran, might continue to fill, allowing it to strengthen its hold on the country.
The worst-case scenario for Israel would be the rebels in Syria and Hizbullah in Lebanon turning their guns on their common enemy – Israel – if war breaks out with Iran.