Lebanon lurches back to the brink

by Kal El on August 14, 2008 · 0 comments

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So much for peace and stability in Lebanon. Since I have been here in the Middle East, it seems that ever 4-6 months, just as Lebanon seems to be coming to a sectarian reconciliation, something like this happens. And the good people in Lebanon endure, hoping for a better tomorrow.

By Martin Asser
BBC News
Aftermath of Tripoli bombing
The bombing is a sickening reminder of past atrocities and possible future traumas

The bombing of a civilian bus in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli could hardly have come at a more sensitive time.

It was less than 24 hours after a parliamentary vote of confidence in the new unity cabinet, which hopes to end months of sectarian infighting.

And it was just hours before the recently-installed president, Michel Suleiman, went to Syria hoping to start a healing process after decades of aggravation between the two unevenly-matched Arab neighbours.

The bombing, which killed at least 14 people, also hit an area that has rapidly become Lebanon’s most volatile security hotspot.

Tripoli has a large Sunni Muslim majority who, culturally at least, seem very Syrian – given the city’s proximity to Syria’s coastal cities.

But in fact they are mostly staunch supporters of Lebanon’s pro-Western, anti-Syrian bloc.

There is also a small enclave of Alawites in Tripoli’s poverty-ridden northern suburbs.

Their sect is an offshoot of Shia Islam based mainly in Syria – its president, Bashar al-Assad, is a member – and they are allied to the powerful pro-Syrian political and militant movement, Hezbollah.

In more politically stable times, this divide might not have produced serious problems.

But in the past months bitter street fighting has erupted between Tripoli’s pro-Syrian Alawite enclave, Jabal Mohsen, and its neighbour, the mainly Sunni, pro-Syrian Bab Tibbaneh, leaving more than 20 dead.

Another Tripoli problem in the last 12 months has been the emergence of Sunni Muslim extremists, who are anti-everyone except al-Qaeda, in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, just north of Tripoli.

It took months for the Lebanese army to quell the so-called Fatah al-Islam uprising last year. The camp was bombed to smithereens and hundreds were killed, and it is far from clear that the extremists were mopped up entirely.

Read the rest on this latest terrorist act in Lebanon in the BBC News.

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