News / Middle East

Lebanon’s Sectarian Divisions Deepen

Fatima, 13, weeps as she kisses her injured father, Ahmad al-Messmar, 40, who was wounded when a deadly car bomb blew up Saturday evening near a gas station, in the predominately Shiite town of Hermel, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014.Fatima, 13, weeps as she kisses her injured father, Ahmad al-Messmar, 40, who was wounded when a deadly car bomb blew up Saturday evening near a gas station, in the predominately Shiite town of Hermel, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014.
x
Fatima, 13, weeps as she kisses her injured father, Ahmad al-Messmar, 40, who was wounded when a deadly car bomb blew up Saturday evening near a gas station, in the predominately Shiite town of Hermel, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014.
Fatima, 13, weeps as she kisses her injured father, Ahmad al-Messmar, 40, who was wounded when a deadly car bomb blew up Saturday evening near a gas station, in the predominately Shiite town of Hermel, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014.
Deadly al-Qaida suicide bombings and rocket attacks on border towns - all tied to the raging civil war in Syria - are deepening sectarian divisions in Lebanon.  Religious hardliners are benefiting.

Two weeks ago, the town of Hermel, a Shia Muslim community in the Bekaa Valley close to the Syrian border, was struck for the first time in its history by a suicide bomber.  The explosion killed five people and wounded another 40.

Thirty-year-old Amel Mourkada was working in a photo shop and at first thought the blast was a gas explosion.

She says she does not remember hearing an explosion, she just remembers everything collapsing on her.

Mourkada nearly lost an eye, her nose was fractured in three places and her right hand permanently damaged. She is now recovering.

She says those responsible for the attack do not know God or religion or anything at all.

Saturday, another suicide bomb hit the town, this time three died and 23 were wounded. The attacks are inflaming sectarian anger. Shia opinion in the Bekaa Valley is hardening -- as it is in south Beirut, which has been blasted by a series of bombs since July, the latest on January 21 killing five and wounding hundreds.

Lebanon’s militant Shia movement, Hezbollah, has become deeply involved in the Syrian civil war on the side of President Bashar al-Assad, an adherent of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam.  Initially, many Lebanese Shia doubted the wisdom of that involvement.

When young Lebanese Shia fighters started to return in body bags several months ago, some people in Hermel questioned why Hezbollah was fighting in Syria, arguing the real enemy is Israel.

Mohammed Alaw, a 50-year-old high school teacher, was one of those critics, but says he and many others have changed their minds.

He says all the people who condemned or did not agree with Hezbollah going into Syria have changed their minds because of the criminal acts taking place in many parts of Lebanon, especially in the Shi'ite communities.

And Alaw says many of his older students are joining Hezbollah.

Sectarian communities across Lebanon feel besieged. Episodic fighting in the northern Lebanese seaport of Tripoli between pro-Assad and pro-rebel factions, the suicide bombings on Shia neighborhoods and border violence are polarizing the country.  The suicide bombings in Hermel will not help. Responsibility for both has been claimed by Jabhat al-Nusra, an offshoot of the Sunni terrorist group al-Qaida.

Lebanon’s Sunni Muslims are also hardening their opinion against their Shia neighbors.

Recently Saad Hariri, the leader of the mainly Sunni March 14th bloc of political parties, offered in principle to enter a national unity government that would include Hezbollah. Many Sunni Muslims were outraged, including Abu al-Bara, a Sunni sheik in Tripoli.

Abu says he and other Sunnis now hate Hariri because he is willing to cooperate despite the deaths of many Sunnis at the hands of Hezbollah.

Lebanon’s besieged sectarian communities share one thing - a sense of foreboding.

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.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
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 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