There’s No “Risk” of Syria’s Violence Spreading. It’s Already Happening.

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Aug. 23 2013 11:55 AM

There’s No “Risk” of Syria’s Violence Spreading. It’s Already Happening. 

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Smoke rises above people gathering near al-taqwa mosque on the site of a powerful explosion in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Aug. 23, 2013.

Photo by Ibrahim Chalhoub/AFP/Getty Images

At least 27 people were killed and more than 400 injured today 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 al-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. Today’s attack comes one 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 today’s attack, calling it a “a "criminal scheme aimed at sowing seeds of strife among the Lebanese."

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In a separate incident today, 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 yesterday. 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. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

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