BEIRUT Dec 6 Two men were killed by sniper fire
in the Lebanese port city of Tripoli on Thursday during
sectarian clashes between gunmen loyal to opposing sides in
neighbouring Syria's civil war, residents said.
A total of eight people have now been killed and 58 wounded
in fighting that started on Tuesday, the latest bout of violence
that has roots in Lebanon's own 15-year civil war but which has
intensified as Syria's conflict has polarised Lebanese society.
Tensions have been high since at least 14 Sunni Muslim
Lebanese and Palestinian gunmen from north Lebanon were killed
in a Syrian town close to the border a week ago.
They appeared to have joined majority-Sunni insurgents
waging a 20-month-old revolt against Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad, who is an Alawite, an offshoot of Shi'ism.
Syrian state television has shown graphic footage of the
dead men, riddled with gunshot wounds.
Tripoli is a majority Sunni city and mostly supports the
uprising next door, but it also has an Alawite minority and
street fights between Sunni and Alawite gunmen have erupted
several times since the revolt began.
Residents said they had heard heavy gunfire overnight as
soldiers tried to stop the gun battle, while the army said it
had arrested five men on suspicion of opening fire. It said two
of its soldiers had been wounded.
Lebanon's Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour asked the Syrian
ambassador to hand over the bodies of the slain gunmen after
their families protested in Tripoli and demanded the Lebanese
government return the dead and determine the whereabouts of the
The bodies will be returned on Saturday, an event which
could inflame tensions along Tripoli's Syria Street, the main
thoroughfare dividing the Sunni neighbourhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh
and the Alawite area of Jabal Mohsen.
Lebanon's population is deeply divided over Syria's crisis,
with Shi'ite movement Hezbollah and its allies supporting Assad
and the Sunni-led March 14 movement supporting the revolt
Syrian troops were garrisoned in Lebanon until 2005 when
anti-Syrian demonstrators took to the streets, accusing Damascus
of assassinating Rafik al-Hariri, a former Lebanese prime
minister and a Sunni.