Two mosques in Tripoli, Lebanon, were targeted by large bombs on Friday, one week after a massive car bomb in Beirut, and just hours after Israel launched a retaliatory rocket strike on the country. The twin bomb blasts this morning have killed at least 27 people and injured nearly 400, according to local health officials, though both casualty totals are expected to rise further.
Much like the car bombing in Beirut last Friday, early indications are that this sectarian conflict is more spillover from the war in Syria. Lebanon, and Tripoli in particular, is home to the largest Alawite community outside of Syria. (The Assad family comes from the Alawite sect.) However, they are a small minority compared to the large Sunni population, which is mostly opposed to Assad and have been at odds with the Alawites for decades. Meanwhile, Lebanon's Shia militant group, Hezbollah, has been sending fighters over the border to fight alongside Bashar al-Assad's troops.
The site of one of the Tripoli bombings in front of the al-Salam mosque. The crater is in bottom left corner. pic.twitter.com/aTdOgJBLd9— Ben Hubbard (@NYTBen) August 23, 2013
The first blast today hit the al-Taqwa mosque, which according to the BBC, is frequented by a well-known Sunni cleric named Sheikh Salem Rafii. It could be retaliation for last week's bomb, which was allegedly carried out by an anti-Syria Sunni group against Hezbollah. No group has claimed responsibility for today's attack as of yet.
As the Syrian civil war has itself become a more sectarian conflict (in part, because of Hezbollah's increased involvement) that conflict has now blown back into neighboring Lebanon. And it also hasn't helped Lebanon's always-simmering conflict with its other neighbor, Israel. Early this morning, Israeli Defense Forces launched a rocket attack on the al-Naama valley in the southern part of the country. The attack was a response to yesterday's incident, when four rockets were fired from Lebanon into Northern Israel. There were no reported injuries in either strike, but the IDF says they hit underground tunnels used by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. That group claims the damage was minimal.