"I haven't slept since Friday," says Sheikh Masri, rubbing his eyes and running his fingers through his long straggly hair. Outside, Lebanese army armored personnel carriers clattered along Syria Street, the frontline between Bab Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen. "They fired eight RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] at me while I was manning my position," says the sheikh who always participates in the clashes wearing a black combat vest, his black turban and armed with a veteran French sniper rifle.
The streets outside his home were strewn with discarded garbage and broken glass. Fresh bullet holes speckled the walls of buildings facing the lofty tower blocks of Jabal Mohsen where Alawite snipers lie hidden. To escape the omnipresent snipers, residents erected large canvas screens across the entrances to several narrow streets to keep pedestrians out of sight.
Squeezing through one of the canvas awnings revealed a street filled with Lebanese soldiers, some of them sitting on top of APCs armed with twin-barrelled 23mm machine guns. Groups of bearded men talking earnestly huddled behind walls for protection. The air was acrid with smoke from several buildings with fire-blackened walls at the edge of Jabal Mohsen which had been set alight during the fighting hours earlier. The Alawite residents had fled to relative safety further up hill.
"We are the majority in Tripoli so in numbers alone we could go up the hill unarmed and eat them alive," says Sheikh Masri. "But we cannot hold ground. We have no weapons. Every time we fire an RPG we cry because each round costs $1,000. But the Alawites have all they want. They are supported by the Syrian regime, Iran and Hezbollah - the gang of Satan."
Although a shaky ceasefire settled over the two neighborhoods early Sunday allowing the army to deploy along the confrontation line, no one expects the peace to endure.
"It's not over," says a young man with short hair and thick beard standing with a group of friends on Syria Street. "The only solution is if the Alawites leave from Jabal Mohsen."