Supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad fought gunbattles in Lebanon's second largest city which left two dead and wounded 40 in another alarming sign that the fragile country is being sucked into the Syrian crisis.If Syria falls, it is quite possible that Hezbollah will point to incidents like this as an excuse to completely take over Lebanon - in the name of "security."
At least 10 Lebanese soldiers were among those wounded in the fighting that broke out Monday night in the port city of Tripoli.
The First Intervention Force Regiment, an army unit comprising jeeps, trucks and armored personnel carriers was forced to retreat Tuesday afternoon after coming under a hail of machinegun fire and rocket-propelled grenade attacks after it had tried to intervene to subdue the violence, security sources told The Daily Star.
Clashes then intensified between the anti-Assad Sunni stronghold of Bab al-Tabbaneh and the Alawite-dominated pro-Assad Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods after the army battalion's pullout. The army maintained a scarce presence in the vicinity, according to security sources.
The violence came less than a week after Lebanon was jolted by a wave of kidnappings of scores of Syrians and two Turkish nationals by the Meqdad clan and other groups in a bid to exchange them for 12 Lebanese held hostage by rebels in Syria. One Meqdad member was recently kidnapped by Syrian rebels in Damascus and 11 Lebanese pilgrims were abducted in May.
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