Syrian Violence Spills Into Lebanon

Gun battles rage in Beirut
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 21, 2012 12:33 PM CDT
Sunni Mourners chant slogans as they carry the coffins of anti-Syrian regime cleric Sheik Ahmed Abdul-Wahid and his bodyguard, who were shot at a Lebanese army checkpoint, May 21, 2012.   (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

(Newser) – 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.

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