Syrian Violence Spills Into Lebanon

Gun battles rage in Beirut
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 21, 2012 12:33 PM CDT
Syrian Violence Spills Into Lebanon
Sunni Mourners chant slogans as they carry the coffins of anti-Syrian regime cleric Sheik Ahmed Abdul-Wahid and his bodyguard, who were shot at a Lebanese army checkpoint, May 21, 2012.   (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Don't look now, but the Syrian conflict might not be confined to Syria anymore. Gun battles broke out in Beirut today between factions supporting and opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the New York Times reports, in Lebanon's most intense outbreak of violence since the Syrian uprising began. The fighting was eventually quelled by military intervention, but not before a pro-Syrian group had been driven out of its predominantly Sunni neighborhood, and the streets had been lined with burning cars.

The outbreak was sparked by the killing of an anti-Assad Sunni cleric at a Lebanese checkpoint, but tensions have long been simmering. Syria's army was deployed in Lebanon for 30 years, up until 2005, and Syria still exerts a strong influence on Lebanese politics; Hezbollah, and most Shiite groups support Assad, while most Sunnis oppose him. An al-Jazeera reporter says he saw streets lined with Syrian opposition flags, and others dotted with posters of Assad. (More Syria stories.)

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