Syria’s uprising continues to be staged within the country’s major cities and roadways, enveloping the country’s citizens in warfare. However, as rebels fight to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, a historic conflict has spread the war beyond Syrian borders.
Less than a hundred miles from the Syrian capital of Damascus, Lebanese Sunni Muslims are staging their own battle under the flag of the Free Syrian Army, defending themselves against a Shiite offshoot of which Assad is a member.
The Alawites are the Shiite group that occupies much of the area along the Lebanon-Syria border, and they have long been involved in violent conflict with their Sunni rivals. However, as the rebellion in Syria surges, the Alawites fear a sudden shift in political power, believing that the Syrian rebels seek to take control of Tripoli. Fighting between the Alawites and their neighbors has been going on since the 1980s, and of course struggles between Sunni and Shiite groups have been documented for centuries. Syria’s uprising has created a new point of conflict between both sides, as Shiite groups such as Hezbollah have been accused of supporting Assad, while Lebanese Sunnis have been vocal in their support of the Syrian rebels.
Along Syria Street in Tripoli, Sunni fighters bunker down against Alawite snipers, the newest reinforcements in the street battle that has claimed the lives of about 12 people this week alone. The neighborhood is not a turning point in the rebellion, but the long standing animosity between the factions is fueled on by the warring next door.
“This will only end when the Syrian regime falls,” Abu Hamad, a commander on the Sunni side told a New York Times reporter. “We are waiting for Assad to go; he’s the head and when he’s gone,” it’s over, referring to the Alawite-controlled area.