Relative calm restored in Northern Lebanese city

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Relative calm restored in Northern Lebanese city

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Relative calm has been restored to the city of Tripoli in Northern Lebanon after the Lebanese Army increased patrols on the streets.

There have been at least five flare-ups of fighting the Sunni and Alawite neighbourhoods in the city since the start of the popular uprising in Syria.

The latest violence was sparked by the assassination of senior security chief Wissam al-Hassan.

One woman described how her son was coming back with bread from the baker’s in the Abou Issam neighbourhood when he was hit by a sniper’s bullet. “He was shot through the heart.” she said.

Violence fuelled by sectarian rivalry is nothing new in Tripoli. Signs of conflict are clearly visible on the streets. Many have been arrested, but the fear is that the fighting could return at any time.

“We don’t want to carry weapons, says Rifat Aid, leader of the Arab Democratic Party and representative of the Lebanese Alawite community, “but the circumstances force us to. We are a minority. There is no strong state or powerful Lebanese army, no guarantees about our country’s survival, so we will not put down our weapons.”

A maze of streets separates the Alawite and Sunni areas of Tripoli, explained our correspondent. “The fighting here is sporadic and unpredictable. The sectarian conflict continues and with it the suffering of the inhabitants. For them, leaving the house can seem like a suicidal exercise.”