March 9, 2015 4:00 AM EDT

The battle lines of Syria are reflected in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. In the north of city, the Sunni neighborhood of Bab el Tebbaneh faces the Alawite community of Jabal Mohsen. The two areas are divided by Syria Street which is often criss-crossed by bullets and bombs.

The Sunnis support their Syrian co-religionists who are rebelling against the regime of President Bashar Assad in Damascus while the Alawites support the President who is also Alawite.

Many residents of both areas have gone to fight in Syria while those that remain are also drawn into violence. Since March 2011, almost 200 from both sides of Syria St have been killed in bombings and shootings. In the most recent major incident, nine people were killed and more than 30 wounded on Jan. 10 in a Jabal Mohsen café when two suicide bombers blew themselves up.

The two communities have been in conflict for centuries in the Levant. The Ottoman Empire persecuted the Alawites in the 19th century while Alawites have been ascendant in the 20th, first as allies of the French rulers of Syria and Lebanon and secondly when Hafez Assad took power in Syria in 1966.

The communities were not separated until the Lebanese Civil War (1976-1990). The Alawites of Jabal Mohsen, the raised area of the city, sided with Syria, while the Sunnis of Bab el Tebbaneh on the plain stood with Sunni Islamists groups. To this day Saudi Arabia is believed to finance Bab el-Tebbaneh, while Syria and Iran are seen as the backers of Jabal Mohsen.

The communities are among the poorest in Lebanon yet rather than provide common ground, this makes them more vulnerable to outside manipulation. Both communities are neglected by Beirut and suffer poor public services and rising unemployment. The militias are often the only employment for young men.

These photos show both communities getting on with their lives amid the chaos of past conflict, with the knowledge that it probably won’t be long until it is once again time to take cover.

Stefano de Luigi is a Milan-based photographer represented by VII Photo.

Conal Urquhart is a senior editor at TIME. He is based in London.

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