Syrian war spills over into Lebanon

Mourners for a murdered Sunni Lebanese sheikh who supported Syrian rebels. (Trudy Rubin / Staff)

Bireh, Lebanon - In my column today I write about the spillover from the fighting in Syria that threatens to spark sectarian warfare in neighboring countries.

Last week I went to a memorial service for Sheikh Ahmed Abdul-Wahid, a popular Sunni cleric who was mysteriously gunned down at a Lebanese army checkpoint, presumably because he was an outspoken supporter of the rebels who are trying to overthrow Syrian president Bashar al Assad.

Syria has a long history of murdering Lebanese leaders who have opposed domination by Damascus. That history was evident in the huge banners that hung from homes and the mosque in Bireh.  Some showed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a Sunni who was blown up by a powerful car bomb; a U.N. investigation implemented figures from Hezbollah, the powerful Shiite movement inside Lebanon that is allied with Assad and Iran.

And other banners showed Abdul Wahid in front of a Syrian flag, or photos taken at events where he had denounced the Syrian regime. Mourners filed into a mosque where the cleric was eulogized. Outside the mosque a huge tent was set up to feed mourners.

The atmosphere was tribal; right now the leaders at this memorial are forgoing thoughts of revenge. But that could change.