News / Middle East

Syria Spillover Violence in Lebanon Raises Alarms

Lebanese Army soldiers check a car in the northern city of Tripoli
Lebanese Army soldiers check a car in the northern city of Tripoli
TEXT SIZE - +
— Lebanon’s army is trying to quell deadly clashes between Lebanese supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. One soldier died yesterday (Oct 28) and several were wounded in the northern city of Tripoli as army units deployed in a bid to curb a week of fighting between warring sectarian neighborhoods.

The seven days of clashes in Lebanon’s second largest city have left at least 17 dead and more than 100 wounded, say government officials. The fighting is prompting worries once again that spillover violence from the civil war raging in neighboring Syria will trigger widespread sectarian conflict in Lebanon.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Miqati sought to reassure Lebanese on Tuesday (Oct. 29) saying the country’s security forces have received “clear orders to restore calm and impose security in Tripoli.”

The fighting the past week between residents of Bab al-Tebbaneh, an Alawi neighborhood that supports Assad, and Sunni Muslims in the district of Jabal Mohsen is the worst Syrian-related gun battle seen in Lebanon in weeks.  
The adjacent neighborhoods have had a long history of conflict that stretches back to the 1975 Lebanese civil war.

Politicians pledge military will restore order

The direct firing on Lebanese army units appears to have particularly alarmed the country’s politicians.

Prime Minister Miqati told reporters Lebanese army commanders have been assured that there is “political cover for them to impose security and that more military reinforcements will be sent to Tripoli.”

In June when gunmen loyal to a hardline Sunni Muslim cleric fired on Lebanese soldiers in the southern city of Sidon – the worst fighting in that city since 2008 -- the response was firm and an army crackdown was endorsed by the main political leaders of the country’s various sectarian factions.

Miqati, who heads a fragile power-sharing caretaker government, says the army command has “a comprehensive plan consisting of imposing more than one security cordon, not only on the demarcation line between Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tebbaneh, but also in depth in order to prevent new clashes.”

The fighting in Tripoli broke out last week after a Lebanese television station broadcast an interview with Assad, in which he said the time is not ripe for peace talks to resolve the civil war in Syria.

Lebanon is deeply divided over the Syrian conflict next door. The majority of Sunnis support the rebellion, while Shia and adherents of Alawi Islam, a Shia offshoot, back Assad. Lebanese Sunnis have fought alongside rebels in Syria and helped with arms supplies and ferrying the wounded to privately funded hospitals in Lebanon.

The sectarian nature of the Syrian civil war and the increasing military role in it of the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah, which has sent fighters to assist Assad, is aggravating historical divisions between Lebanese Sunni Muslims and Shia, according to author and commentator Michael Young.

“The fact that today Hezbollah is intervening on the side of the Syrian regime has really only exacerbated a problem that has been there for several years,” he says.

Foreign jihadists raise tensions

Ali Mohammed Fadlallah, a spokesman for the predominantly Alawi Arab Democratic Party, blames the fighting in Tripoli on the “presence of foreign Jihadists in Lebanon,” a consequence of the civil war in Syria, which he says is attracting foreign fighters to Lebanon.

The dangers for Lebanon are mounting fast. Jihadists affiliated with al Qaeda have been infiltrating Lebanon and forming alliances with radical Sunni groups, say Lebanese army sources. Much of their activity has been focused on recruiting for the war in Syria but they are a destabilizing factor.

Retired Lebanese army general Hisham Jaber estimates there are more than 5000 foreign jihadists using Lebanon as a base. He believes the situation can be contained and that neither Hezbollah nor Sunni militants want a full-scale conflict on Lebanese soil while Lebanon is useful as a logistical base for both sides in Syria. But he warned that might not always be the case.

“If the situation in Syria changes in a dramatic way. In this case it will move directly to Lebanon and we will lose control,” he says.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid