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

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
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.

All About America

AppleAndroid