Tripoli:a‘mailbox’ on the way to Damascus

The Syrian crisis is spilling into Lebanon, where pro-rebel Sunnis and pro-Assad Alawites face off in country’s second largest city

On the eastern outskirts of Tripoli, in northern Lebanon, there’s a ‘front line’ called Syria Street. It marks the boundary between two enemy neighbourhoods: Bab al-Tabbaneh, the Sunni stronghold with a Salafi majority, and the hilly enclave of Jabal Mohsen, an Alawite suburb. Buildings riddled with bullet holes tell a more than 30-year-old story: the war between Sunnis and Shiites that involves age-old family feuds and economic interests. These Swiss cheese homes also tell us that the Syrian crisis is dragging the second most populated city in Lebanon into the mayhem of conflict.

Syria Street is the dividing line between the two warring factions: on one side the inhabitants of Bab al-Tabbaneh, who support the rebels fighting against Bashar al-Assad, and on the other the residents of Jabal Mohsen, who back the Syrian president. Ever since early 2013, when Hezbollah, the Lebanese ‘Party of God’, decided to send men and arms into Syria, Tripoli has become the country’s ‘mailbox’ – all political messages along the Beirut-Damascus route travel through here.

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