Tripoli catches breath between battles

My latest for Al-Monitor, published 11 December, 2012

An uneasy calm permeates Tripoli, the capital of northern Lebanon. Residents cautiously venture out into the street again, and set about repairing the damage that last week’s fighting had caused. With at least 17 dead and close to a 100 injured, it was some of the the worst fighting Tripoli has seen since the beginning of the Syrian uprising.

The clashes saw parts of the city transformed into a war zone. Those daring to go out in the Sunni neighbourhood of  Bab al-Tabbaneh and the Alawi area of Jabal Mohsen would dash across the deserted streets to avoid the continuous sniper fire. The sound of rocket-propelled grenades and the occasional mortar pierced the nights. Many residents complained of lack of sleep.

“I was very scared,” says 13-year-old Lailla Saidi as she plays near a shot-up school in Masakin Hariri, another Sunni area next to Jabal Mohsen. It is the first time she is allowed to go out and play in a week. “I didn’t sleep and I wasn’t allowed out. There was no school, I just stayed at home.”

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