BEIRUT – Angry mourners gathered in Beirut to bury a Sunni man, rumored to be the singer of a tune urging violent death upon Shiites, in the latest manifestation of how the war in neighboring Syria has inflamed hatreds in Lebanon that now extend even to music.
Hundreds of Sunni men from across Lebanon flocked to Wednesday's funeral after word spread that the dead man, car mechanic Marwan Dimashkiyeh, was the singer of "Dig Your Grave in Yabroud" — a virulently anti-Hezbollah song.
The funeral-turned-protest reflected rising tensions between Lebanese Shiites and Sunnis as they wage war in Syria on opposing sides.
The song refers to a battle launched in February by Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Lebanese allies from the Shiite Hezbollah group to dislodge rebels from Yabroud, a town along the Lebanese border. The town serves as part of a rebel supply line reaching sympathetic Sunni towns in Lebanon.
"Yabroud is on fire," said Mohammed Estateyeh, a Sunni activist who attended the funeral. The song "reflects how deeply people are suppressed, angry."
The fighting in Yabroud prompted Hezbollah supporters to write a foot-stomping song titled "Make Your Victory Decisive in Yabroud."
The song featured a video clip with gory close-ups of dead rebels and extremist Sunnis carrying the severed heads of pro-Assad fighters.
"Listen, terrorist, my people are steadfast, they won't kneel," deep-voiced men sing. "They will wipe out your existence in Yabroud."
Pro-rebel Lebanese Sunnis quickly fired off a response with "Dig Your Grave in Yabroud."
"Your victory is a dream in Yabroud, it is your illusion, Hezbollah," singers chant.
Dimashkieh was found shot to death in his vehicle on a northern Lebanese highway Tuesday. Despite denials from family and friends, rumors identified him as the voice behind the song.
"Oh, Nasrallah, be patient, we will bury you in Yabroud!" some mourners chanted in the cemetery under the rain, referring to Hezbollah chief Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.
Some Lebanese Sunnis have fought alongside rebels seeking Assad's overthrow. Iran-backed Hezbollah has dispatched fighters to battle alongside Assad-loyal forces.
The violence in Syria has spilled over into Lebanon, where more than a dozen suicide car bombs have ripped through Shiite areas. Political bickering over the conflict has left the government paralyzed.
It wasn't clear what triggered the rumors that Dimashkiyeh was the singer. One mourner said he had been sending the song to friends.
His uncle, Zakariyeh Dimashkiyeh, described him as about 40 years old and a deeply devout father of two who ran a car oil-change business. He belonged to the Islamic Group, a conservative Lebanese Sunni organization that has pleaded for calm.
"He has no relation to the song. He is the same as any man who liked it," said the organization's Sheik Mohammed Takkoush.
Mourners said they agreed with the song's violent lyrics and its promises of death for Shiites.
Hezbollah is "participating in the war, and it has upset the Sunnis," said one mourner, Tarek, who would not give his last name for fear of retribution. "The Sunni street is boiling."