Two pro-Hezbollah Sunni Muslim leaders in Lebanon have survived assassination attempts as clashes in the northern city of Tripoli leave at least six dead and more than 30 others wounded.
Assailants tried to murder Sheikh Maher Hammoud, who has ties to Hezbollah, a group that has been fighting alongside forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Security officials said Hammoud was walking from his home in the port city of Sidon to the al-Quds Mosque where he preaches early on Monday when unknown men in a moving car opened fire.
He was unhurt in the shooting, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. His bodyguards returned fire but no one on either side was hurt, they said.
Hammoud is a longtime supporter of the Shia group Hezbollah and Sidon is a majority Sunni Muslim city.
It was not clear who was behind the shooting. Hammoud told a Lebanese TV station that he assumed it was linked to his support for “Hezbollah’s jihad” in Syria.
“I would assume it was an attempted assassination,” Hammoud told al-Mayadeen TV, seen as sympathetic to the Syrian government.
Elsewhere, security services reported another attack on a Sunni imam with connections to Hezbollah.
They said the car of Sheikh Ibrahim Mustafa Breidi came under machinegun attack in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa area and caught fire.
Lebanese factions support opposing sides in the civil war in neighbouring Syria and have often clashed inside Lebanon.
Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, said the attempted murder in Sidon and other violence in Tripoli was a clear sign that the battle for Syria had entered Lebanon.
“The threat we spoke about for months is not longer just a threat, it is a reality,” our correspondent said.
“Political polarisation is also deepening here in Beirut, with many accusing Hezbollah of fuelling sectarian tensions in the country with its support of Assad.”
The fighting in Tripoli is largely between Sunnis, backing Syrian rebels, and Alawites, supporting Assad.
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said that regional conflicts would not be allowed into the country.
“We will not allow our country to be an outlet for supporting militias,” he said.