News / Middle East

Lebanon Moves To Avoid Syria War Spillover

Lebanese supporters and relatives of Hezbollah members attend the funeral in Beirut May 26, of a Hezbollah fighter who died fighting in the Syrian civil war.Lebanese supporters and relatives of Hezbollah members attend the funeral in Beirut May 26, of a Hezbollah fighter who died fighting in the Syrian civil war.
x
Lebanese supporters and relatives of Hezbollah members attend the funeral in Beirut May 26, of a Hezbollah fighter who died fighting in the Syrian civil war.
Lebanese supporters and relatives of Hezbollah members attend the funeral in Beirut May 26, of a Hezbollah fighter who died fighting in the Syrian civil war.
The military command issued a strong warning Friday that Lebanese should be “wary of plots” that could turn the nation into a battlefield like next door in Syria.
 
“In recent days, some groups have seemed determined to stoke security tensions against the backdrop of the political divisions in Lebanon over military developments in Syria,” the command said in an unusually blunt statement.
 
Military commanders have been “trying for several months to work firmly, determinedly and patiently to prevent Lebanon being turned into a battlefield for regional conflicts and to prevent any spillover of the events in Syria,” the command said.
 
The military then urged Lebanese “to express their political views on events in Lebanon and Syria by peaceful and democratic means, and not to be driven by groups wanting to use violence as a means to achieve their ends".
 
The warning came as the French government, through its ambassador, urged all Lebanese to abide by the self-avowed “dissociation policy” set out in 2012 by the nation’s key sectarian leaders. The policy was designed to keep Lebanon neutral in the Syrian civil war and aloof from the strife raging next door.

French Ambassador Patrice Paoli stressed to a delegation from the Maronite Christian community the need for the Lebanon to avoid getting entangled in the Syrian crisis.

The Lebanese government officially is neutral in Syria’s civil war, but the country’s militant Shia movement, Hezbollah, has become deeply involved in the fighting. Hezbollah is anxious to prevent the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime patron of the group and ally of its main paymaster and arms supplier, Iran.
 
Lebanon’s official neutrality is challenged
 
On Wednesday, as a result of Hezbollah’s increased military intervention, Syrian government forces were able to deal a sharp blow to mainly Sunni Muslim rebels by retaking the strategic town of Qusair near the Lebanon frontier. Hezbollah fighters were considered key in the government victory.
 
But Lebanon’s Sunni leaders reacted with fury at Hezbollah’s actions and called for a jihad against the Shia movement.
 
A day before Qusair fell, General Selim Idriss, leader of the main rebel umbrella group, the Free Syrian Army, warned that his fighters were prepared to take the conflict into Lebanon in pursuit of Hezbollah militiamen. Hezbollah, he said, was “invading” Syria and Lebanon was doing nothing to stop them.
 
Rocket attacks on Hezbollah villages in the Bekaa Valley this week suggests that Syrian rebels or their Lebanese supporters were making good on Idriss’ threat.
 
Prominent Lebanese are targeted
 
There are signs also that Syrian rebels or their Lebanese supporters intend to strike at prominent Lebanese figures who oppose the uprising against Assad: two Lebanese Sunni Sheikhs who are sympathetic to Hezbollah and Iran narrowly escaped assassination attempts this past week.
 
On June 3, gunmen targeted Sheikh Maher Hammoud as he left his home in Sidon. The would-be assassins unleashed a barrage of automatic gunfire at the pro-Assad sheikh and his bodyguards returned fire. Hammoud escaped unharmed and quipped later. “It seems that the assailants lack professionalism. Thank God for that.”

On the same day another imam, this time in east Lebanon near the border with Syria, was attacked by assailants who opened fire on the car of pro-Hezbollah Sunni Sheikh Ibrahim Braidi in the town of Qab Elias. Security sources said they suspect there’s a connection between the attacks and believe jihadists backing the Syrian rebellion may be responsible.
 
Political and religious leaders condemned the attacks on the Sunni sheikhs.
“Assaulting religious scholars ... is a flagrant violation aimed at igniting strife among the Lebanese,” Lebanon’s mufti, Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani said in a statement.

The government in Beirut has struggled for months to limit the fallout from the civil warfare in Syria. Above all, it wants avoid another Lebanese civil war like the 1975 to 1990 fighting that left more than 120,000 Lebanese dead.

The Lebanese Army has moved quickly in the past to put down any clashes between Sunni gunmen loyal to the Syrian rebels and pro-Assad Alawites or Shiites in the northern Lebanon.

Last October, the army managed speedily to impose order when sectarian clashes erupted in Tripoli and Beirut following the assassination of Lebanon’s security chief, Brig. Gen. Wissan al-Hassan. Many Lebanese – including the dead general’s aides -- suspect Hassan was killed on the orders of Assad and that Hezbollah may have played a role in the bombing.

Adding to the tensions are rocket attacks on Hezbollah villages in the Bekaa Valley and the expectation that Hezbollah will retaliate against Sunni villages that have been helping to supply Syrian rebels.

“If that happens, we are a few short steps away from things getting out of hand,” said a major in Lebanese military intelligence.

You May Like

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid