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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid