Lebanon on the brink? Street battles expand in Tripoli as Syrian civil war spills over

Lebanon on the brink? Street battles expand in Tripoli as Syrian civil war spills over

Lebanese army tanks pounded Muslim militants’ positions in the narrow streets of a poor neighborhood in this northern city Sunday, where fighting has intensified and spread to nearby areas where gunmen killed four soldiers.

Several tanks, armored personnel carriers and Humvees carrying commandos arrived earlier in the day on the edge of the Bab Tabbaneh neighborhood, where clashes were heaviest. Intense gunfire exchanges and sporadic explosions rang out across the neighborhood, the worst fighting Lebanon’s second largest city has seen for months. …

The clashes, which broke out Friday night, have so far killed 10 soldiers, four civilians and wounded many others. There were no figures of casualties among the militants.

On Wednesday, troops killed three militants and detained a local leader in a raid in the northern Dinniyeh region, setting off the spark that led to the Tripoli fighting.

A battle between Lebanese troops and Muslim militants in northern Lebanon was widely expected after members of the Islamic State group and al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, launched several attacks over the past weeks in areas on the border with Syria. …

Lebanese army commander Gen. Jean Kahwaji said in comments published this month that the militants from Syria want to ignite civil war and create a passage to Lebanon’s coastline by linking the Syrian Qalamoun mountains with the Lebanese border town of Arsal and the northern Lebanese town of Akkar, an impoverished Sunni area.

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