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“People don’t create a force to confront the government. That’s why we are an easy people to govern.”

But the increasingly unstable situation has local residents and U.N. officials worried.

“What we see around the region is a dance of death at the brink of the abyss of war,” said Terje Roed-Larsen, the U.N. special envoy to the Middle East, after briefing the U.N. Security Council last week.

“If you look at the situation in Syria, which is maybe the most likely to spill over, then in a way it is reminiscent of the situation in Lebanon and its neighbors in the 1970s.

“This is what I fear.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.