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Keating: Syria’s violence already is spreading

Published: Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

WASHINGTON – At least 27 people were killed and more than 400 injured Friday in twin bombings in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. The bombs appeared to target two Sunni mosques during Friday prayers in the restive city, which has suffered from the spillover of violence from nearby Syria in recent months.

The city is home to a prominent community of Alawites, the same Shia sect of Syrian President Bashar Assad and many of his senior officials. The city’s Sunni community largely supports the anti-Assad opposition.

The imams of both mosques reportedly have ties to the Syrian rebels.

Friday’s attack comes a week after a car bombing in a Hezbollah stronghold in southern Beirut also killed 27 people and was described as the country’s worst terrorist attack since the 1980s. Hezbollah, the Shiite group that has sent fighters to support Assad, has already condemned Friday’s attack, calling it a “criminal scheme aimed at sowing seeds of strife among the Lebanese.”

In a separate incident Friday, Israeli warplanes struck what the country’s military called “a terror site located between Beirut and Sidon” in southern Lebanon.

The Israeli strike is in retaliation for four rockets launched into northern Israel on Thursday. It’s the first time Israel has attacked the area since the 2006 war with Hezbollah, which is believed to have a significant stockpile of rockets in the area. But this time, the rockets appear to have been launched not by the Shiite group but by the al-Qaida-linked Abullah Azzam Brigade. The Sidon area has also been the site of recent Sunni-Shiite violence linked to the conflict in Syria.

It may be time to stop referring – as news accounts of these events still do – to the “risk” of violence spreading from Syria to its neighbors. There is no risk. It’s happening.

• Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international news, social science and related topics.

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