Don't look now, but the Syrian conflict might not be confined to Syria anymore. Gun battles broke out in Beirut today between factions supporting and opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the New York Times reports, in Lebanon's most intense outbreak of violence since the Syrian uprising began. The fighting was eventually quelled by military intervention, but not before a pro-Syrian group had been driven out of its predominantly Sunni neighborhood, and the streets had been lined with burning cars.
The outbreak was sparked by the killing of an anti-Assad Sunni cleric at a Lebanese checkpoint, but tensions have long been simmering. Syria's army was deployed in Lebanon for 30 years, up until 2005, and Syria still exerts a strong influence on Lebanese politics; Hezbollah, and most Shiite groups support Assad, while most Sunnis oppose him. An al-Jazeera reporter says he saw streets lined with Syrian opposition flags, and others dotted with posters of Assad.