I went out in the streets where the fighting was taking place on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday during the day. Each time, I followed the Sunni fighters from the neighbourhood of Bab El Tebbaneh as they fought the Alawites from the adjacent neighbourhood. Thursday night, however, there were so many snipers and so much bloodshed that I had to stay home.
This violence is much worse than the clashes between the two sides back in May
. I saw the fighters use lots of brand-new weapons. They seem to have been stocking up. They had machine guns with night vision binoculars, but also rocket launchers. The Alawite fighters are equally well-equipped.
During the daytime, they clash sporadically; at night, it’s continuous. Last night, which was by far the worst, I heard explosions from 1 a.m. on – and I live two kilometres away from where the fighting is taking place.
When I first went out there on Tuesday, snipers were already shooting at anything that moved. I saw a man who poked his head out of his doorway – he was just a local resident, not a fighter – and got hit by sniper fire coming from the Alawites’ side. The Sunni fighters had difficulty extracting him. He died.
Photo by our Observer Ibrahim Chalhoub.
“I saw the Sunni fighters insult soldiers and repeatedly chase them out of the neighbourhood”
Both sides shoot haphazardly. It’s all very disorganised. The fighters I was with shot lots of rockets toward the Alawites’ neighbourhood, and didn’t seem to care whether these might land on innocent civilians.
Military armoured vehicles weave in and out of the area of the fighting, but they don’t stay long. I saw the Sunni fighters insult soldiers and chase them out repeatedly. The army isn’t taking any risks because the government hasn’t given them a clear mandate to intervene, and they’re very afraid of losing their men. [Editor's Note: On Thursday, the army was officially given the green light
to restore order in Tripoli.]
All the neighbourhoods surrounding those where the fighting is taking place have basically shut down. In mine, all the stores are closed, and people avoid going outside. Right now, we’re taking it day by day. Nobody knows how long this fighting is going to last. I’m hoping it will stay confined to Tripoli, but I worry that if it were to spread, it could lead to a civil war. [In an interview with FRANCE 24
, Lebanese MP Samy Gemayel also spoke of his fears that, "if nothing is done, armed groups could eventually lead the country into civil war."]
Many Alawites here practically consider themselves bi-national – they have houses, friends and family in Syria, as well as fond memories of the years when Syria’s Alawite-led government controlled Lebanon. Sunnis also have friends and family in Syria, but who are against the regime – and some of whom are even in prison there. For both sides, the Syrian conflict has become their conflict.