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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora