With rebels under pressure from forces loyal to Assad, George Sabra, leader of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, appealed Wednesday for fighters from throughout Syria to travel to Qusair to “rescue” the town.
‘An eye for an eye’
One of Allouke’s men, nicknamed Abu Omar, said that with violence rising in Tripoli, there is no temptation to leave for Qusair. “We are under attack. We have to stay here to defend our wives and children,” he said.
The Alawites in Jabal Mohsen, perched on the hill above Bab al-Tabbaneh, contend that the Sunnis stirred tension.
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” Rifaat Eid, an Alawite leader, wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday. “This is the last straw. You will hear the roar of Jabal Mohsen.”
Regardless of who is responsible for the provocation, both sides are quick to take up arms. About 35 percent of the population of Tripoli, once a Levantine trade hub, lives below the poverty line, with the figure even higher in Jabal Mohsen and in Bab al-Tabbaneh. With unemployment rife, violence often appears to be fueled by boredom.
The regular crack of sniper fire rang through the neighborhoods on Wednesday afternoon as most fighters took a break. Abu Omar joked with a friend as they sent a mortar round hissing up the hill to the Alawites. “We have many more,” he said with a smile as the sound of the blast reverberated. After darkness fell, the violence began in earnest once more.
It is a futile battle, one in which fighters admit they are pawns in a bigger game but continue regardless.
“I was born in 1969 in Tripoli and all I’ve known is guns,” Allouke said. “We’ll live here, we’ll die here. They’ll take their orders from Bashar al-Assad to kill us, and we’ll try to kill them. This is the way of life.”