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
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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs