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 For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    100 immigrants graduated Friday as US citizens in New York, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in cities across country

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora