File - A citizen journalism image made on a mobile phone and acquired by the AP, Arabic writing on a burnt car reads: "pay attention, you are in Banias not in Israel, April 17, 2011. (AP Photo)
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It is a tenuous truce that endures in large part because of a simple assessment made by the Sunnis who form a majority of the town's 50,000 residents: The government will not tolerate dissent in the mountainous coastal region that forms the heartland of President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect.That calculation was tested after a mass killing in a Sunni village outside Banias in May. But instead of plunging into the abyss of reprisal killings and sectarian slaughter that has devoured other communities in Syria, Sunnis and Alawites in Banias pulled back into their communities, taking shelter behind the ramparts of their respective sects but leaving the town intact.It is a meandering path that Banias took to arrive where it is today, with Sunnis shopping almost exclusively at Sunni-run stores and Alawites doing the same.Some Sunnis began killing locals suspected of informing for the government.Banias appeared to be on the brink in May after pro-Assad forces killed nearly 250 people in the Sunni village of Bayda and the Sunni suburb of Ras al-Nabaa outside Banias.For some Sunnis, the fault lies with Alawite residents who put their sect ahead of communal ties by not coming to the aid of their Sunni neighbors when the government moved against the peaceful protests.
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