Aug 22 2012
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Bab Al Tabbaneh and Jebel Mohsin: arch-enemies
Wednesday, Aug 22, 2012
Beirut: Few can remember when it all started but inhabitants in the Tripoli neighbourhoods of Bab Al Tabbaneh and Jebel Mohsin abandoned friendliness sometime ago, killing each other regularly and, ironically, doing so to satisfy foreign powers.
In as much as the two localities in the northern Lebanese city housed Sunnis and Alawitte Shittes, periodic clashes were explained away by personal vendettas or, more absurdly, by excitable unemployed youths who were paid for their troubles. Elsewhere in the ethnically and religiously mixed city of Tripoli, people did not behave in such a fashion, allegedly because citizens understood far better the game of nations or because local masters successfully controlled their streets.
In the latest clashes at the height of the Eid Al Fitr celebrations, eight people were killed and more than 70 wounded after fighting erupted between two Muslim communities of Bab Al Tabbaneh, a solidly pro-March 14 Sunni district, and Jebel Mohsin, a chiefly Alawi neighbourhood beholden to Hezbollah and Syria.
Few volunteered to make the link between political preferences towards Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, whose government confronted a largely Sunni-led opposition. Although born in Damascus, the Syrian president traced his ‘Alawi roots to Lattakiyyah, less than 120 kilometres from Tripoli, which was a potential safe haven. Importantly, Prime Minister Najeeb Mikati, a Sunni from Tripoli, spoke forcefully on Tuesday, calling on both sides to end their “absurd battles” as Lebanon was not interested in being drawn into the Syrian blaze.
His government adopted the policy of “disassociation” that aimed to protect Beirut from the crisis next door amid concerns that a spillover of the uprisings might re-ignite divisions that fuelled the still unresolved civil war (1975-1990). Prime Minister Mikati urged Tripoli residents “not to allow anyone to transform you into ammunition for someone else’s war,” which was a clear declaration to local rivals that nothing good could possibly come out of their actions.
The two groups displayed conflicting loyalties in the ongoing fighting across the border with many Sunnis housing family members who escaped during the past 18 months. Still, Tripoli confronted periodic bloody clashes because its sectarian fault-lines housed beholden pro-Hezbollah Alawite community members living in the midst of a Sunni majority indebted to pro-March 14 elements. It was unclear whether the latest deaths, which increased the total number of victims, would turn into open sectarian violence, especially if Lebanese citizens were predisposed to articulate Syrian preferences.
By Joseph Kechichian Senior Writer
Gulf News 2012. All rights reserved.
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