* Ten people killed since clashes started on Tuesday
* Tensions high after Lebanese gunmen killed in Syria
* Syrian FM says Lebanese govt. cannot remain neutral
By Nazih Siddiq
TRIPOLI, Lebanon, Dec 6 Five men were killed 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.
Ten people have now died in sporadic clashes in the city
since 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 polarised Lebanese society.
Tripoli is a majority Sunni Muslim city and mostly supports
the uprising in Syria, but it also has an Alawite minority and
street fights between Sunni and Alawite gunmen have erupted
several times since the revolt began.
Most of the dead have been shot by snipers along Tripoli's
Syria Street, which divides the Sunni neighbourhood of Bab
al-Tabbaneh from the Alawite area of Jabal Mohsen.
The clashes on Thursday were between gunmen from the
neighbouring districts. Three of the dead were from Jabal Mohsen
and two from Bab al-Tabbaneh, but it was unclear if they were
involved in the fighting or bystanders.
Army vehicles were posted at major road junctions near the
area, witnesses said, and intermittent gunfire could still be
Tensions have been high since at least 14 Sunni Muslim
Lebanese and Palestinian gunmen from north Lebanon were killed a
week ago by Syrian government forces in a Syrian town close to
They appeared to have joined mainly Sunni insurgents waging
a 20-month-old revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad,
whose Alawite faith is derived from Shi'ite Islam.
Syrian state television has shown graphic footage of the
dead Lebanese men, riddled with gunshot wounds.
Residents in Tripoli said they had heard heavy gunfire
overnight as soldiers tried to stop clashes. The army said two
of its soldiers had been wounded and that it had arrested five
men on suspicion of opening fire.
Lebanon's population is deeply divided over Syria's crisis,
with Shi'ite political and guerrilla movement Hezbollah and its
allies supporting Assad and the country's Sunni-led opposition
bloc, March 14, backing the revolt.
Politicians in the small Mediterranean state have agreed to
distance themselves from the turmoil in its neighbour, but
Syria's deputy foreign minister said on Thursday more should be
done to prevent Lebanese fighters joining rebels in his country.
"We turn to the Lebanese government and we say, enough. When
the situation is linked to the killing of Syrians, it is no
longer possible to maintain the position of neutrality," Faisal
Maqdad said in an interview with Hezbollah's al-Manar TV. He did
not elaborate on what measures should be taken.
Assad's opponents blame Syria, whose troops were garrisoned
in Lebanon until 2005, for the unresolved October killing of
Lebanese security official Wissam al-Hassan. Hassan had been
leading an investigation that implicated Damascus and Hezbollah
in the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik
al-Hariri, a Sunni.
Lebanon's Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour asked the Syrian
ambassador to hand over the bodies of the gunmen killed in the
Syrian town a week ago, after their families protested in
Tripoli and demanded the Lebanese government return the dead and
determine the whereabouts of the missing.
The bodies will be returned on Saturday, an event which
could further inflame tensions along Syria Street.