News / Middle East

Lebanese Factions Deepen Involvement in Syria

Lebanese Sunnis march through the northern city of Tripoli carrying coffins of Lebanese militants killed in Syria last December. Sunni militants from Lebanon have been fighting with Syrian rebels to oust Syria's Assad government.
Lebanese Sunnis march through the northern city of Tripoli carrying coffins of Lebanese militants killed in Syria last December. Sunni militants from Lebanon have been fighting with Syrian rebels to oust Syria's Assad government.
A struggle is heating up between Lebanese factions supporting opposite sides in Syria’s civil war, alarming authorities in Beirut trying to keep their country out of the bloody fighting next door.

Lebanese backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and opponents supporting the mainly Sunni Muslim rebels trying to oust him have stepped up their operations to out-maneuver each other in recent weeks.

Both sides in the Syrian civil war are anxious to keep support bases in Lebanon. The Assad government has been securing fuel, food and medical supplies with the aid of its Lebanese allies. The rebels have been using the country as a conduit for weapons and foreign fighters as well as a haven for wounded insurgents.

This month, the Syrian government started helping its Lebanese supporters in their efforts to disrupt pro-rebel logistical efforts in Lebanon by ordering up air strikes on cross-border smuggling routes used by the rebels.

The latest air strike came on April 10, when a Syrian government helicopter fired missiles on targets in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley in two separate raids. One was near the Lebanon-Syria border and the other three kilometers northeast of Arsal, a Lebanese town serving as hub for the smuggling to the rebels.

Damascus had warned Beirut earlier this month it would attack suspected rebel sites in Lebanon if incursions from across the border didn’t stop.

 

Warning from Damascus

 

“Lebanon is a logistical base for both camps,” said Bassel Salloukh, a political scientist at Beirut’s Lebanese American University. “The worry is that when the battle for Damascus gets underway in earnest, Lebanon will turn from being a logistical base into a battlefield.”

Damascus is just over an hour’s drive from the Lebanese border.


Gun battles have periodically erupted in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli between Alawite fighters in the Jabal al-Mohsen neighborhood, who back the Assad regime, and Sunni gunmen in the adjacent Bab al-Tabbaneh district, who support the Syrian uprising. The Syrian president comes from the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam.

Much of the logistical struggle in Lebanon, though, doesn’t involve gun battles, but consists of intelligence-based efforts mounted by both sides to hamper the transport of supplies into Syria.

 

Food and fuel targeted

Lebanese Sunnis supporting the rebels earmark food and fuel trucks, burning or looting them when spotted. They block roads leading into Syria being used by the trucks.
 

Trucks park at the Lebanese-Syrian border after residents in Lebanon blocked the road to protest what they said were shipments of diesel fuel to the Syrian government February 13, 2013.Trucks park at the Lebanese-Syrian border after residents in Lebanon blocked the road to protest what they said were shipments of diesel fuel to the Syrian government February 13, 2013.
x
Trucks park at the Lebanese-Syrian border after residents in Lebanon blocked the road to protest what they said were shipments of diesel fuel to the Syrian government February 13, 2013.
Trucks park at the Lebanese-Syrian border after residents in Lebanon blocked the road to protest what they said were shipments of diesel fuel to the Syrian government February 13, 2013.
“We have the sheikhs, they decide when we should block roads and we go out put up obstacles, burn tires and cut the road when we know there are trucks full of fuel heading for Syria,” says Mohammad al-Ladan, an activist in Majdel Anjar, an overwhelmingly Sunni town on the highway linking Beirut and Damascus. “No fuel trucks have used the highway for a month now,” he adds.

Trucks carrying supplies other than fuel for the Assad regime are also being stopped. “Some of the activists loot the trucks and distribute the food and goods to Syrian refugees,” says Omar Abdul Rahman, an NGO worker in the nearby town of Bar Elias.

Publicly, Lebanese government officials are playing down much of the clandestine struggle. They don't want to highlight that while they are observing an official policy of neutrality in the Syrian civil war, other powerful forces within Lebanon don’t feel so constrained.

 

Open confrontations avoided

 

They are fearful too of intervening forcefully. Sources in Lebanon's security police say the worry is that such intervention could involve Lebanese government forces in confrontations that might escalate and provoke bigger firefights between pro and anti-Assad Lebanese.

Above all government forces are avoiding any confrontations with Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese Shia militia movement that has backed Assad since the civil war began two years ago.

Hezbollah has intensified its patrolling on both sides of the Lebanese-Syrian border in the Bekaa and further north to try to disrupt the arms and supplies destined for the Syrian rebels. Hezbollah also is trying to prevent foreign fighters, including Lebanese Sunnis, from joining the rebel struggle against Assad.

“We are trying to contain problems, stop opposing sides from clashing physically and ensuring the public is not too affected,” says a senior Lebanese security police officer who asked not to be named. “But there is more activity and more danger.”

In Tripoli, the Lebanese government has cracked down strongly in the past when pro and anti-Assad Lebanese groups have clashed, worrying that those firefights clashes could quickly escalate.

But it isn’t just in Tripoli that the behind-the-scenes stealth war threatens to explode. In the northern Bekaa Valley, a series of tit-for-tat abductions connected with the logistical war is roiling Sunni-Shia relations in the Baalbek-Hermel region that includes the smuggling town of Arsal.

Pro-rebel Sunnis from the town of Arsal and members of the Jaaffar clan, who are Shia, have been engaged in retaliatory kidnappings since the end of last month.

Some local leaders in Arsal, who are critical of the Lebanese government for intervening, issued a statement recently blaming Lebanese security forces for the protracted instability in the area.

“[The] security bodies’ performance in ensuring the security of the people has been bad and will definitely lead to strife…What these security bodies are doing is managing a security crisis instead of sticking to their primary role which is to strike all violators with an iron fist,” the statement said.

You May Like

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

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