BEIRUT, Lebanon, May 18 (UPI) -- The violence between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government opened a "deep wound" in the Sunni-Shiite conflict, an expert told The New York Times.
"The Sunni-Shiite conflict is in the open now, it's been triggered and operationalized," Paul Salem of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut told Sunday's Times. "This is a deep wound, and it's going to have serious repercussions if it's not immediately and seriously addressed."
Tensions between Lebanese Shiite and Sunni factions boiled over following a brief takeover of West Beirut by Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
A conflict over a telecommunications network ran by Hezbollah escalated to a near-civil war. Sunni fighters clashed with Shiite fighters in the streets of Beirut following what Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said was an open declaration of war from the western-backed government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a Sunni.
Nasrallah emphatically downplayed the sectarian conflict in recent speeches. Hezbollah fighters, however, torched the offices of rival Sunni politicians stoking fears the Sunni militant group Fatah al-Islam may emerge from their hideout in a Palestinian refugee camps to challenge the Shiite Hezbollah in the streets.