Northern Lebanon has become a bastion of support for the Syrian opposition, and a safe haven for the Free Syrian Army. Support for the Syrian opposition has led to clashes with the pro-Assad Alawite population in Tripoli. Fighting took place in neighbourhoods surrounding the Alawite district of Jabal Mohsen and the Sunni neighbourhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh.
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As the war dragged on, the Syrian presence became more visible, with an increasing number of Syrians taking part. In 1983, they fought against the remnants of the PLO in Tripoli, with the help of dissident Palestinians. In 1987, 7,000 Syrian troops were sent to Muslim areas. And from 1985 to 1988, the Syrians backed the Amal which fought Palestinian groups in what was called ‘the War of the Camps’.
The coastal region of present-day Lebanon corresponds to an important part of ancient Canaan, which extended from Ugarit (now Ras Shamra) in northern Syria, along the coast and the valley of the river Orontes, down to southern Israel. Later, in the 1st millennium BCE, Tripoli, Byblos, Beryt (Beirut), Sidon (Saida), and Tyre were famous, independent Phoenician cities. From the first century CE on, the Christian religion spread along the Mediterranean Coast and beyond. Lebanon and Syria were among the very first countries to be Christianized. The Christians in the Roman Empire were at first ignored or tolerated, then persecuted, and eventually recognized.