Tripoli Bombings: Blasting Open the Floodgates?

Two bombings left 47 dead after last Friday’s prayers in Tripoli, Lebanon. Many analysts are concerned that these blasts, together with a bombing in the largely pro-Hezbollah Beirut suburb of Ruwaiss that killed at least 27 two weeks ago, will lead to a resurgence of sectarian violence.

“If any doubt remained about whether the conflict in Syria would result in a violent proxy battle in Lebanon,” says Lama Fakih, “it was put to rest by yesterday’s car bombings in Tripoli.” While the actors in Syria’s war once appeared to have what Emile Hokayem at IISS calls “an unspoken understanding … not to use Lebanon as a battlefield, but rather as a gateway to Syria,” these bombings suggest this understanding has been broken.

Perhaps as dangerous as the violence itself is the reaction it may provoke from Lebanon’s citizens. “If the bombing … are meant to spread a state of panic,” writes Eilas Harfoush for Al Hayat, “then these bombing have achieved their goal to a great extent.”  He claims that the fear and mistrust between sects present during the worst of the Civil War “has returned today, as acute and bloody as it ever was.”

Agence France-Presse reports that after the bombings in Ruwaiss, Hezbollah stepped up neighborhood patrols and checkpoints in an effort to establish greater security. Likewise, despite the Lebanese Army’s announcement that it will increase its presence in Tripoli, armed citizens of Tripoli—a city the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star called “awash with weapons”—quickly converged on the two mosques on Friday and, according to the Associated Press, set up checkpoints on their perimeter by Saturday.

Most major Lebanese political players—from Hezbollah to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri—have denounced the bombings and their intent to incite sectarian violence. Although Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb blamed Hezbollah for the attacks over twitter, many are instead holding Syria or Israel responsible.  Lebanese authorities announced the arrest of Sheikh Ahmad al-Ghareeb on Sunday, in connection with the Tripoli bombings. Ghareeb claims the explosions were “directly planned by Syrian intelligence.”

The bombing spurred President Michel Sleiman to renew calls for a National Dialogue. Hezbollah has declared it will “continue to extend our hand in order to promote national responsibilities.” Lebanon’s government, which has not had a parliamentary session in over a month, or a sitting government since March 22, 2013, faces renewed criticism of its response to sectarian-driven violence.

This post was written by Leslie Adkins, CIP Transparency and Accountability Intern.

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