Decades-long rivalry among Lebanon’s Christian factions rears its ugly head

BEIRUT (LEBANON) – Enmity between Christian factions in Lebanon who fought against each other during the bloody 1975-1990 civil war has reared its ugly head once again on the street as well as in political debates. This has stoked fears of fresh conflict as the country struggles with its worst crisis since the war.

The 30-year-old strife between supporters of President Michel Aoun and Lebanese Forces (LF) led by Samir Geagea spilled over in the form of a standoff near the capital. Though there were gunshots, no one was injured.

Some residents said the events on Monday reminded them of the civil war days. It also points to the long-running feud in the country which is divided along sectarian lines and is reeling from an economic meltdown.

While Aoun is allied with the Shiite Hezbollah, which is supported by Iran, Geagea leads the opposition to Hezbollah and they want the Islamic outfit to surrender its weapons.

“There are limits they cannot cross,” said Elias al-Zoghby of Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). He said a convoy of Geagea supporters waving flags provoked them by driving towards the party headquarters.

“We hope they’ll remember the past and that nobody can win the game of the street,” LF activist Toni Bader said, denying FPM’s version of events.

With the economic crisis erupting last year, the country has witnessed sporadic violence gaining intensity. To add to that, there was a devastating explosion in Beirut port last month. The government has stepped down and the efforts to form a new ministry under French supervision seem to be losing ground.

“The security situation is reaching a breaking point,” said Mohanad Hage Ali of the Carnegie Middle East Center.

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