News / Middle East

    Hezbollah Hands Over Checkpoints in Lebanon to Avoid Strife

    Lebanese army soldiers are pictured with their tanks, a day after clashes in the Lebanese town of Baalbek, Lebanon's Bekaa Valley September 29, 2013.Lebanese army soldiers are pictured with their tanks, a day after clashes in the Lebanese town of Baalbek, Lebanon's Bekaa Valley September 29, 2013.
    x
    Lebanese army soldiers are pictured with their tanks, a day after clashes in the Lebanese town of Baalbek, Lebanon's Bekaa Valley September 29, 2013.
    Lebanese army soldiers are pictured with their tanks, a day after clashes in the Lebanese town of Baalbek, Lebanon's Bekaa Valley September 29, 2013.
    Lebanon’s militant Shi'ite group Hezbollah established dozens of checkpoints this summer in Beirut and other Lebanese cities after a series of bombings targeted their followers. But with Sunni resentment mounting over the security arrangements, Hezbollah unexpectedly has backed down.

    This week the Lebanese army took control of Hezbollah checkpoints in the Bekaa Valley town of Baalbek following sectarian clashes. This is not the first time the militant Shi'ite group has handed over checkpoints to the country’s official security forces.
     
    In the summer, Hezbollah set up checkpoints in Beirut and other cities in the wake of a series of car bombings that targeted their followers in the Shi'ite-dominated southern suburbs of the country’s capital.
     
    The bombings were apparent reprisals for Hezbollah’s military support of President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war raging next door.
     
    Lebanese Sunnis resented the Hezbollah checkpoints, claiming the security measures proved that the militant group sees itself as a state-within-the-state.

    For critics of Hezbollah, like Lebanese author Michael Young, the militant and political group was just using its claimed special status as a resistance force against Israel to parade its weapons and autonomy.
     
    “Because a resistance force essentially, implicitly gives the party the right to be above the Lebanese state, not to submit to the rules of the Lebanese state, not to accept that the monopoly over weapons should only be held by the state and the armed forces. It has tried to integrate into the state. But at the same time it has retained always a prized position for itself outside the system,” says Young.

    Syria support at issue

    But Hezbollah has been handing over its checkpoints even in southern Beirut to the Lebanese army, saying it wants to avoid being dragged into conflict with Lebanon’s Sunnis who back the rebels in Syria. The Sunnis have been angered by Hezbollah’s support of Assad and episodic albeit deadly sectarian clashes in Lebanon have broken out.
     
    Lebanon has been on edge since spring when Hezbollah took a prominent role in Syria - a move that upset the delicate political and religious balance in Lebanon. Christians and Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims have maintained a fragile truce since ending a bloody civil war of their own 23 years ago.
     
    Over the weekend, gun-battles erupted in Baalbek between Shi'ite militiamen and a prominent Sunni family, sparked partly because of a Hezbollah checkpoint.
     
    Retired Lebanese army general Hisham Jaber says that Hezbollah is determined to contain sectarian strife in Lebanon, fearing the consequences of an all-out conflict erupting. And the group is being careful, he says, not to antagonize the Lebanese army, despite the fact Hezbollah is likely the more powerful force.
     
    “Hezbollah was smart enough not to create any hurt or conflict with the army. They are very wise to keep a distance from the army and to create a kind of coordination in order not to have any conflict,” says Jaber.
     
    No one is expecting Hezbollah to surrender its vast weapons arsenal, but the abandoning of checkpoints has offered Lebanese some hope that maybe they can avoid a full-blown sectarian conflict.

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora