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

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.