Beirut tensions escalate after attacks on clerics

Shi’ite attacks on Sunni clerics have led to increased tensions and protests, threatening an explosion of sectarian violence.

Lebanese Shi'ites protest  370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Lebanese Shi'ites protest 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Lebanese security forces arrested seven suspects on Tuesday for attacks on four Sunni clerics on Sunday, which have raised tensions in Beirut.
Hatem Madi, the Lebanese state prosecutor, decided to arrest the suspects and said there could be more arrests, according to a report on Tuesday in the Lebanese Daily Star.
A group of Shi’ites attacked Sheikh Mazen Hariri and Sheikh Ahmad Fekhran after they left the Mohammad al-Amin Mosque in downtown Beirut. Sheikh Ibrahim Abd al-Latiff and Sheikh Omar were attacked in Shiyah, according to the report.
The attacks led to increased tensions and protests by Sunnis, threatening an explosion of sectarian violence.
On Tuesday, Grand Jaafarite Shi’ite Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Qabalan met with Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani in order to calm tensions, reported the Daily Star. Both clerics made statements condemning the violence.
“We came to this dignified, national house in solidarity with the stance of Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani and to stress our condemnation to what recently happened of attacks on the sheikhs, and [we] reject all kinds of assaults on any person, let alone religious figures,” Sheikh Qabalan told reporters.
The Sunni Sheikh Qabbani also warned against violence: “Lebanon will not be in isolation from what is happening in Syria and Iraq in particular, which has become a model of civil war... Lebanon will enter in this strife, and so we should be aware,” he said, as reported by the Daily Star.
On Sunday and Monday, angry Sunnis blocked roads and burned tires in Beirut.
The recent events in Lebanon have led much of the Arab press to warn of a sectarian civil war. The London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi published an editorial on Monday stating that the country’s tensions along with the Syrian civil war could create a regional or even world war.
The Daily Star’s editorial on Tuesday praised the actions by the religious leaders of Sunnis and Shi’ites who are working to calm tensions, but adds,  “The Syrian conflict is not 'trickling over the borders' – it has very definitely arrived.”
An editorial by Rajeh Khoury in the Lebanese daily An-Nahar, titled “Lebanon on the verge of hell?!” states that the sectarian tensions in Lebanon are being fueled by Syria.
This comes in the wake of recent accusations by the Syrian regime and the opposition of chemical weapons attacks as well as continued cross-border fighting.