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

Video Protests Continue in Ferguson, Spread to Other US Cities

Missouri officials say deployment of more than 2,000 National Guard soldiers helps curb second night of rampant arson and looting in Midwestern town More

Video Ebola, Crackdown on Illegals Hit Business in Guangzhou

Chinese city has largest community of Africans in Asia More

Video Legendary Lebanese Actress, Singer Sabah Dies at 87

Music and film diva, affectionately called 'Sabbouha' by millions of her fans, performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, Royal Albert Hall in London, Olympia in Paris, Sydney Opera House in Sydney More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
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 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 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.

All About America

AppleAndroid