News / Middle East

Lebanon Kidnappings Cause Regional Scare

Passengers carrying baggage try to pass, after main road leading to Beirut airport was blocked by relatives of the 11 Lebanese Shi'ite pilgrims who were abducted in Syria, August 15, 2012.
Passengers carrying baggage try to pass, after main road leading to Beirut airport was blocked by relatives of the 11 Lebanese Shi'ite pilgrims who were abducted in Syria, August 15, 2012.
Margaret Besheer
BEIRUT — Fears are growing that Lebanon could be drawn further into Syria's conflict, as several Arabian Gulf countries have called on their citizens to immediately leave Lebanon after a rash of kidnappings.

More than 20 Syrians and a Turkish national were reportedly seized in the Bekaa Valley and near Beirut by the powerful Shi'ite Muslim Mikdad family and its supporters this week.

They are angry over the capture of Lebanese national Hassan Salim Mikdad by the rebel Free Syrian Army. He was shown on Lebanese television beaten and bruised and saying he is a member of Hezbollah.

Shi'ite masked gunmen from the Meqdad clan, gather at the Meqdad family's association headquarters in the southern suburbs in Beirut, Lebanon, August 15, 2012.Shi'ite masked gunmen from the Meqdad clan, gather at the Meqdad family's association headquarters in the southern suburbs in Beirut, Lebanon, August 15, 2012.
x
Shi'ite masked gunmen from the Meqdad clan, gather at the Meqdad family's association headquarters in the southern suburbs in Beirut, Lebanon, August 15, 2012.
Shi'ite masked gunmen from the Meqdad clan, gather at the Meqdad family's association headquarters in the southern suburbs in Beirut, Lebanon, August 15, 2012.
On Wednesday, Mikdad family supporters vandalized dozens of Syrian-run stores in a Beirut neighborhood and then blocked the airport road with burning tires, prompting one French jet to divert to Cyprus.

Lebanese government officials are reported to be in talks with the Mikdad family to release all their hostages.

Hillal Khashan, a political scientist at American University in Beirut, says the Mikdad clan belongs to the powerful Shi'ite militia and political party, Hezbollah.

“Hezbollah is under pressure from its constituency for not doing anything - or not doing enough - to release the Mikdad man arrested in Syria," explained Khashan. "There is no question about it, the Free Syrian Army said they have evidence that he is a Hezbollah fighter alongside the [President Bashar] Assad forces. They made it very clear they would not release him even if Hezbollah and the Mikdad family takes scores of Syrians hostage.”

Khashan says the issue is that Hezbollah feels embarrassed. He says the powerful group cannot do anything to rescue Hassan Mikdad and they feel that the Free Syrian Army tried to sensationalize his capture. But he says the confrontation is not likely to ignite sectarian strife in fragile Lebanon.

“It is not in the interest of Hezbollah to allow the matter to escalate," said Khashan. "They are not interested in a civil war. They don't feel that a civil war in Lebanon would serve their objective.”

But Lebanon remained tense as the road to Beirut's international airport reopened Thursday morning. Arab Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates  have urged their nationals to leave Lebanon immediately in the wake of the kidnappings.

UN emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos speaks during a joint news conference with Lebanon's Minister of Social Affairs Wael Abu Faour in Beirut, August 16, 2012.UN emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos speaks during a joint news conference with Lebanon's Minister of Social Affairs Wael Abu Faour in Beirut, August 16, 2012.
x
UN emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos speaks during a joint news conference with Lebanon's Minister of Social Affairs Wael Abu Faour in Beirut, August 16, 2012.
UN emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos speaks during a joint news conference with Lebanon's Minister of Social Affairs Wael Abu Faour in Beirut, August 16, 2012.
Meanwhile, the U.N.'s humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos, canceled a planned visit to Syrian refugees in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley in the wake of the kidnappings, saying her security officers had advised her not to go there.

Amos wrapped up a two-day visit to Damascus with a stop in Beirut. She told reporters that when the United Nations carried out aid assessments at the end of March there were about one million Syrians in need. She says that number has now more than doubled.

“Our view is that number has probably gone up to about 2.5 million," said Amos. "This is the people in Syria itself, separate to that of course, there are the people who have fled over the borders into Jordan, coming here to Lebanon, but also into Turkey and Iraq as refugees.”

She said she has been unable so far to persuade the Syrian government to allow in large international aid agencies that the United Nations needs to help it meet the needs of such a large number of people.

Amos dismissed the Syrian government's concern that such aid might reach the armed groups it is fighting, saying humanitarian work is done in an independent and impartial way.

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

ILO: Women Still Losing Out in Global Work Place

International Labor Organization says women are marginally better off now than they were 20 years ago More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More