“For a third day in a row, the violence of Syria spilled into the northern city of Tripoli in Lebanon. The AP reports that the Alawites, who support the regime of Bashar Assad, and the Sunnis, who support the Syrian uprising, traded fire in Lebanon using assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades. Five people were killed and 100 were wounded in Lebanon’s second-largest city…………”
This is not the first armed conflict in the area since the Syrian protests started. The ground had been set for trouble in Tripoli long before the Arab uprisings, since 2008 or thereabouts. The Hariri bloc has strong supporters in the predominantly Sunni city, and there are some Alawite residents in the area. Hariri himself cautioned against escalation today, presumably warning his supporters (on Twitter), but it is not clear yet if he still has as much influence. Besides, Saad Hariri is a Saudi first and he will not say or do anything that does not have the approval of Riyadh: the princes can bankrupt him if they get angry enough. Besides, Lebanese officials had complained in recent months of movements of men and weapons across the Syrian border. Besides, al-Qaeda and affiliates see a chance to merge the two ghazwas (holy battles, actually raids) of Syria and Lebanon (and maybe even Iraq in their view). Besides there has been talk of possible Saudi and Qatari weapons being supplied to the Syrian opposition militias, some of the arms no doubt remain in Lebanon. Then there are some defectors from the Syrian military who may also be armed. Besides, the local Alawites are also apparently armed now (like a Tango, it takes two, or more, to do battle).
It is all a formula for an extended conflagration, given that Hezbollah and allies are well-armed and well-trained and dominate in Beirut and the south.
The Tripoli region is now well-armed for the foreseeable future, with fundamentalist groups gaining sway. There are plenty of people on the Arabian Peninsula and in Lebanon with deep pockets who can finance these groups, possibly with the ambitious goal of eventually blocking and severing the link between Syria and Beirut and south Lebanon.
This is one thing the Israelis will not want to touch or manipulate, if’n (if’n) they are smarter now than they were in 1982 and 2006 as far as Lebanese matters are concerned.