As Syria, Egypt, and now Lebanon burns amid fearsome scenes of another bomb blast outside mosques, undoubtedly connected to the developing civil war in the Middle East between Sunni and Shia Muslims, it is time for the world’s community to pray for a peaceful resolution and for stability to return to the region.
News reports of another bombing atrocity, this time outside a Sunni Lebanese mosque, seemingly in retaliation for an earlier bombing at a Shia mosque, highlight the massive tensions arising, without any clear information on who is leading either side in the various uprisings, or if they are endemic of surging enmity between the sides, who seem to have switched their attention from anti-American sentiment to a civil war footing on an epic religious scale.
Twin car bombs exploded outside mosques in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli Friday, killing at least 29 people, wounding over 350 and wreaking major destruction in the country’s second largest city, Lebanese Health Ministry officials said.
Footage aired on local TV showed thick, black smoke billowing over the city and bodies scattered beside burning cars in scenes reminiscent of Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war.
The blasts hit amid soaring tensions in Lebanon as a result of Syria’s civil war, which has sharply polarized the country along sectarian lines and between supporters and opponents of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. It was the second such bombing in just over a week, showing the degree to which the tiny country is being consumed by the raging war next door.
Tripoli, a predominantly Sunni Muslim city, has seen frequent clashes between Sunnis and Alawites, a Shiite offshoot sect to which Assad belongs. But the city itself has rarely seen such explosions in recent years.
Friday’s blasts mark the first time in years that such explosions have targeted Sunni strongholds and were bound to raise sectarian tensions in the country to new levels. It was also the most powerful and deadliest in Tripoli since the end of the civil war.
Attacks have become common in the past few months against Shiite strongholds in Lebanon, particularly following the open participation of the militant Shiite Hezbollah group on behalf of Assad in Syria’s civil war.
On Aug. 15, a car bomb rocked a Shiite stronghold of Hezbollah in the southern suburbs of Beirut, also killing 27 people and wounding over 300. A less powerful car bomb targeted the same area on July 9, wounding over 50.
The region is becoming a very dangerous place in a war which could last for decades. Syria has been accused of using chemical weapons on its own citizens. Whether the UN has the will or firepower to intervene with any force is debatable.
What is clear is that this is developing quickly into a regional civil war, not between Islam and the West, but between rival religious factions within the vast Muslim community.
The other question will be whether this will spill over into Europe and Asia where there are large Muslim communities, or if it contained within the Middle East.
These tensions have been simmering for centuries, but have now been released. Some will blame the interventions in some nations by the West, but it could be that the power-keg was always tinder dry and simply waiting for a match.