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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid