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|Conflict in Lebanon (2011–present)|
|Part of the impact of the Arab Spring and the Syrian civil war|
Lebanese army in Tripoli after December sectarian clashes
|Anti-Syrian government militants:||Pro-Syrian government militants:||Lebanese Government:|
|Commanders and leaders|
Fighting from the Syrian civil war has spilled over into Lebanon. Fighting has mainly occurred between Lebanese opponents and supporters of the Syrian government, the spillover conflict has resulted in violent unrest and kidnappings of foreign citizens across Lebanon. Islamists across northern Lebanon have arranged sit-ins and blocked roads to protest the arrest of a Lebanese Islamist linked to the Syrian uprising. The conflict escalated from previous sectarian clashes between pro-Syrian government Alawites and anti-Syrian government Sunni militants in Tripoli in June 2011 and February 2012. Sit-ins were also held in south Lebanon by anti-Hezbollah Salafists, which heightened tensions further. It evolved into a conflict between the anti-Syrian March 14 Alliance and the pro-Syrian March 8 Alliance. The Saudi backed March 14 alliance supports the Syrian rebels, whereas the Iranian backed March 8 alliance supports the Syrian government.
In May 2012, the conflict spread to Beirut, and later to south and east Lebanon, while the Lebanese Armed Forces deployed in north Lebanon and Beirut. The two factions are not only divided by sectarian but mainly political lines, since members of the same sects can be found on either side. Since May 2012 scores of people have died and hundreds more have been wounded in clashes. Both Sunni and Shia Muslim fighters from Lebanon have joined fighting in Syria's civil war on either side.
Since the Cedar Revolution in 2005 and the withdrawal of the occupying Syrian forces from the country, the Lebanese political spectrum has been divided between the anti-Syrian government March 14 alliance and the pro-Syrian government March 8 alliance. The March 14 alliance, led by the mainly Sunni Muslim Future Movement, which is allied with the Maronite Christian Kataeb Party, has called for Lebanese aid to the Free Syrian Army and taking a stronger stance against the Syrian government.
This has been rejected by the ruling March 8 alliance, which includes the Shia Hezbollah and allies such as the Maronite Free Patriotic Movement, among others. In August, The Jerusalem Post reported that protesters, enraged at Hezbollah's support for Syria's government, burned Hezbollah flags and images of its leader Hassan Nasrallah in several places in Syria. Pro-government protestors countered the actions by carrying posters of Nasrallah. Hezbollah states they support a process of reforms in Syria and that they are also against U.S. plots to destabilize and interfere in Syria, amid comments by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that it should be "abundantly clear to those who support Assad [the] 'regime' [that] its days are numbered." It was reported that, "sales of black market weapons in Lebanon have skyrocketed in recent weeks due to demand in Syria." In June 2011, clashes in the Lebanese city of Tripoli between members of the Alawite minority, loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and members of the Sunni majority left seven people dead.
Future Movement MP Okab Sakr was long suspected to be involved in aiding the insurgents in the Syrian civil war. At first he denied his involvement, but admitted it when Al Akbhar published audio tapes of him making arms deals with Syrian insurgernts. Sakr later claimed the tapes were edited, and that he only provided Syrians with milk and blankets.
Sunni extremists from Tripoli have been flocking to Syria to join the terrorist al-Nusra Front. Hezbollah fighters have been deployed to protect border towns inhabited by Lebanese Shias from the rebels.
In interfactional clashes in Tripoli, seven people were killed and 59 wounded, on 17 June. Armed clashes erupted following a rally in support of Syrian protesters. Fighting broke out between gunmen positioned in the rival neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen (mainly Alawites who support the Syrian regime) and Bab al-Tabbaneh (mainly Sunnis, supporting the Syrian uprising). Among the dead were a Lebanese army soldier and an official from the Alawite Arab Democratic Party.
From 10 February to 11 February 2012, two or three people died in fighting in Tripoli's neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tebbaneh. An intervention by the Lebanese Army resulted in the injury of six soldiers.
On 29 April 2012, the Lebanese navy confiscated a large consignment of arms and ammunition on the container ship "Lutfallah II," which was headed for the port of Tripoli in northern Lebanon before it was intercepted. The ship had begun its voyage from Libya and some of the arms on it were labelled as "Libyan." According to the BBC, it is generally believed the consignment was destined for the rebels in Syria. Four people were also wounded during a clash between supporters of the Syrian opposition and Sunni supporters of Assad from the Tawheed Movement.
In May 2012, Salafists in Tripoli demanded the release of a Sunni Islamist, Shadi Mawlawi, who had been arrested on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization. The Salafists claimed that they were ready to fight if the army tried to clear their blockade by force.
The arrest of Mawlawi triggered a new round of fighting between Islamists and Alawites in Tripoli. Two to four people were killed when fighting erupted on the night of 12 May 2012. In the evening of 12 May, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles were used in the fighting in an Alawite enclave and surrounding Sunni neighbourhoods in the port city. Hours before the clashes, Lebanese troops exchanged fire with a group of young Islamists protesting in Tripoli for the release of a terrorism suspect. The outbreak of gunfire between the Islamists and the army happened as the youths, sympathisers with those partaking in the Syrian uprising, tried to approach the offices of the pro-Syrian Syrian Social Nationalist Party. In all, three of the dead were reportedly Sunni civilians, while one was an army officer.
The fighting continued on 14 May, which resulted in the death of five Alawites and one Sunni. The army then deployed to the area on 15 May, and engaged in gunbattles with residents that left eight wounded, including a soldier. By 16 May, the clashes left 11 dead, including a soldier.
By 18 May, a total of 12 people were dead and more than 100 wounded in the clashes.
On 20 May, a prominent Lebanese Sunni cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Abdel-Wahid, and his aide, Mohammed Merheb, were killed by Lebanese Army, when failing to stop at a check point in Akkar, north Lebanon. His death provoked protesters into cutting off roads in many parts of the country with burning tires. A Sunni leader threatened to establish a "Free Lebanese Army", if the authorities did not work to solve the murder of the prominent Lebanese anti-Assad Sunni cleric.
The following day, 22 army personnel present at the shooting were arrested, and Future Movement MP Khaled Al Daher called for their execution. On 22 May, the Islamist Shadi Mawlawi was released in Tripoli.
On 24 May, the March 14 Alliance, the anti-Assad Lebanese opposition block, called for a new government “aimed at confronting the attempt to ruin Lebanon.” At the same time, the Islamist protesters in Tripoli threatened that their demonstrations would spread all over Lebanon if about 180 Islamists arrested and accused of participating in the 2007 Lebanon conflict were not released.
On 28 May, a civilian man who failed to stop at an army checkpoint was shot to death by soldiers.
On 20 May, the evening following the killing of Sheikh Abdel-Wahid, clashes erupted in Beirut's Tariq Jdideh neighborhood between armed Sunni militants of the Future Movement and Sunnis of Tayyar al-Arabi, leaving three dead and ten wounded and creating a tense security situation in the capital and the country as a whole.
On 6 September, two people were wounded in gunfights between Future Movement members in Beirut, and the army was deployed in the area.
In May 2012, Syrian opposition members kidnapped three pro-Syrian Lebanese in the village of Zeita near the Syrian border. In retaliation, 60 Syrian workers were kidnapped. The prisoners were exchanged on 16 May.
On 22 May, at least 16 Lebanese Shia pilgrims were reportedly kidnapped by the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo. The FSA denied responsibility and blamed them on what they termed "mafia gangs" and stated that they would help free the pilgrims. The kidnappers said they would release the pilgrims if Lebanon recognised the Syrian opposition. Of 11 hostages being held, one was released on 25 August.
In late May, two Lebanese farmers were kidnapped and transported to Syria by pro-Syrian regime forces. Rifaat Eid of the Arab Democratic Party mediated for their release, which occurred on 3 June.
Several people were kidnapped, in response to other kidnappings, in June. On 25 August, a Kuwaiti citizen was kidnapped in Howsh al-Ghanam in the Bekaa valley. However, the political nature of the kidnapping was questioned by the security services.
The Shia al-Meqdad clan abducted a group of 20 people, mainly alleged FSA members but also a Turk, in retaliation for the kidnapping of Hassan al-Meqdad by the FSA. The armed branch of the clan threatened more actions if he was not released. Several others who were kidnapped earlier were released as they were not affiliated with the FSA. The al-Meqdad's spokesman also said that the kidnappings occurred after Lebanon took no action to assure the release of their kidnapped member. As a result of the kidnappings and warnings, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and other Gulf Arab countries warned its citizens to leave the country. Protesters also blocked roads against the advice of Hezbollah at the inability of the government to take action on freeing Lebanese citizens abroad. This prompted Hezbollah's Nasrallah to say the situation was out of the control of Hezbollah and, in turn, prompted criticism of Hezbollah by March 14.
On 30 May, two more people were wounded in clashes between the Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods.
On 2–3 June, 15 people were killed and over 60 wounded in clashes around Tripoli. As a result of the fighting, the Army re-entered Syria Street, that divides the warring neighborhoods, to set up a buffer zone between the two sides. Following the declaration of a cease-fire, there were several violations of the truce during the night of 3 June, in which one policeman and one soldier were wounded.
On 8 June, one person was killed and three others were wounded when gunfire hit the Alawite neighborhood in Tripoli.
On 25 June, there were clashes between families supporting different political factions in Miniyeh, North Lebanon.
On 27 July, two men who were on their way home to Jabal Mohsen were stabbed by unidentified assailants, which lead to clashes between gunmen.
At the beginning of the summer 2012, two Hezbollah fighters were killed in a clash with Syrian rebels who were on Lebanese territory.
On 17 September, Syrian Ground-attack aircraft fired three missiles 500 metres (1,600 ft) over the border into Lebanese territory near Arsal. It was suggested that the jets were chasing rebels in the vicinity. The attack prompted Lebanese president Michel Sleiman to launch an investigation, whilst not publicly blaming Syria for the incident.
On 22 September, a group of armed members of the Free Syrian Army attacked a border post near Arsal. This was reported to be the second incursion within a week. The group were chased off into the hills by the Lebanese Army, who detained and later released some rebels due to pressure from dignified locals. Michel Sleiman praised the actions taken by the military as maintaining Lebanon's position being “neutral from the conflicts of others". He called on border residents to “stand beside their army and assist its members.” Syria has repeatedly called for an intensified crackdown on rebels that it claims are hiding in Lebanese border towns.
On 11 October 2012, four shells fired by the Syrian military hit Masharih al-Qaa, where previous shelling incidents have caused fatalities. Lebanon's position of ignoring the attacks and dissociating itself from the conflict remained unchanged. The United Nations indicated that around eighty thousand refugees from Syria are currently being hosted in Lebanon.
In October Hassan Nasrallah denied Hezbollah members were fighting alongside the Syrian army, but that Lebanese in Syria were only protecting Lebanese inhabited villages from the Free Syrian Army.
On 16 June, a Palestinian man was killed and eight others were wounded in clashes with the Lebanese Army in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp. On 18 June, two Palestinians were killed and 10 more wounded in the camp and one Palestinian was killed in Ain al-Hilweh camp while protesting by the Lebanese Army. On 27 June, clashes erupted in the Bourj al-Barajneh camp, with no casualties.
The Sunni Muslim cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir and his supporters staged a sit in in the southern city of Sidon to protest Hezbollah's weapons. This led to tensions, and later clashes between Assir-supporters and members of the Popular Nasserist Organization. An AFP photographer was beaten during the clash. The following day, counter-protests were held.
On 8 August, a gunfight between supporters and rivals of Assir wounded five, including two women.
On 9 August, Lebanese police arrested former Lebanese minister Michel Samaha, who was later indicted by the court for setting up an armed group to incite sectarian strife through “terrorist attacks” on behalf of the Syrian government. The court also indicted two Syrian army officials, the head of Syrian National Security Bureau Major General Ali Mamlouk and Brigadier General Adnan. Reportedly, Samaha confessed to planning on carrying out several bombings in Akkar District and other targets in northern Lebanon. The opposition March 14 alliance called for a rapid investigation and, if confirmed, an immediate cutting of relations with Syria and trying Samaha for grand treason. The ruling March 8 alliance meanwhile dismissed Samaha's arrest as a "March 14 campaign".
On 20 and 21 August, 12 people were killed and more than 100 wounded, including 15 soldiers, in clashes between Sunni Muslims and Alawites in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli in another spillover from the war in neighboring Syria, according to security and medical sources. At least two of the dead were from Jabal Mohsen and five were from Bab al-Tabbaneh. Among the dead was also a 13-year-old boy. Five of the soldiers were injured by gunfire on 20 August, and another five on the next day after a grenade was lobbed at an army checkpoint.
On 22 August, the Lebanese Army made a renewed attempt to stop the violence, deploying troops into the feuding neighborhoods. However, the army sustained heavy casualties, and was forced to retreat. After opening a dialogue with community leaders, the army managed to forge a ceasefire between the two parties.
The ceasefire dissolved on 23 August, as fresh clashes erupted across the city. The Lebanese Army has deployed tanks to the neighbourhoods, in a renewed attempt to bring the situation under control. While a measure of calm was returned, sporadic fighting continued throughout the day, and the situation remains volatile.
On 24 August, further fighting occurred after a dawn exchange of small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades between Sunni and Alawite fighters in the Qobbah and Jabal Muhsin neighbourhoods. The skirmish provoked unrest throughout both districts, and at least 7 Alawite-owned shops in Sunni neighborhoods were torched by unknown assailants. Fighting escalated after the death of Sunni cleric Sheikh Khaled al Baradei, shot by a sniper during the morning skirmishes. Sheikh Baradei was reportedly a commander of the Sunni Islamist fighters, and his death led to further sectarian unrest within the city. Two journalists from an unknown news agency were also wounded during the day's fighting.
On 19 October, a car bomb killed eight people in the Beirut's neighbourhood of Achrafiyeh, including Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, chief of the Intelligence Bureau of the Internal Security Forces. 78 others were wounded in the bombing. It was the largest attack in the capital since 2008. The killing of a senior figure closely linked with the anti-Assad camp in Lebanon led to immediate speculation that Syria, or its allies, were behind the attack in Beirut. Al-Hassan had also led the investigation that implicated Syria and its ally Hezbollah in the killing of the former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri. However, al-Hassan himself had also been a prime suspect during the Hariri investigation, and had close ties with Saudi intelligence, and was said to have ties to Mossad.
The assassination triggered violent unrest throughout the country. A host of Future TV called on a crowd to head toward the Grand Serail, and the protesters subsequently clashed with the police. Sunni gunmen set up checkpoints, scrutinising the sectarian identify of passers by.
Following Wissam al-Hassan's death, Saad Hariri and a number of other Lebanese political leaders from the anti-Assad March 14 Alliance directly accused the Syrians of being behind the attack, while the Future Movement called on Prime Minister Najib Mikati to immediately resign, claiming his cabinet had shown incapability to maintain the country’s security. Sheikh Abdul Razzaq al-Asmar of the Islamic Unification Movement was killed in Tripoli the same day, when pro-Hariri gunmen took control of Tripoli and clashed with IUM and SSNP members.
On 21 October, violent clashes occurred throughout the country which were triggered by the assassination. Two young girls and a man were killed during clashes between Bab Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen. The following night, pro-Hariri gunmen clashed with rivals in the Tariq al-Jadeedah neighbourhood of Beirut. Two Sunnis and an Alawite were killed in Tripoli and 15 people were wounded on 22 October. In total, clashes from 19 to 23 October left 10 dead and 65 wounded.
On October 24, Future Movement protesters clashed with the Lebanese army.
On November 11, three people were killed and four others wounded after supporters of Salafi cleric Ahmad al-Assir clashed with supporters of Hezbollah in the southern city of Sidon. Assir stated "We have a blood score to settle with Hizbullah that can only be settled with blood", and that he considered forming an "armed resistance group."
On November 30, between 14 and 20 Islamists from North Lebanon, as well a Palestinian, were killed in an ambush in Tall Kalakh near the Lebanese border. They had gone to Syria to fight alongside the Syrian rebels.
On December 2, Lebanese soldiers clashed with Syrian rebels near the Syrian border. There were no casualties.
At least 12 people were killed and 73 injured in Tripoli between 4 and 6 of December, as Alawites and Sunnis were involved in heavy clashes, which were sparked by the Tall Kalakh incident.
On 3 January 2013, one person was killed and three hurt during clashes between the Popular Nasserite Organization and the Hezbollah-affiliated Resistance Brigades. The following day, the body of a Palestinian man was found in Sidon by the army.
On January 18, Sports and Youth Minister Faisal Karami's convoy came under attack in Tripoli by protesters holding a sit-in which demanded the release of Islamists jailed for being members of the terrorist group Fatah al Islam. Five were injured.
On February 1, Lebanese Army soldiers clashed with Salafist militants in the village of Arsal in the Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border, when the army attempted to arrest a fundamentalist there. Two soldiers were killed and eight wounded. Subsequently, the fundamentalist brought their dead bodies to the town square and celebrated. Sunni fundamentalists in Lebanon have been strengthened by the presences of armed co-religionists in Syria.
At least one person was killed and four injured when clashes broke out again in the northern port city of Tripoli on March 20. The violence began with a shooting at a local hospital that left 3 people injured, including a Lebanese soldier and his brother, both of them from the mostly Alawite Jabal Mohseh neighborhood. Further clashes later in the evening left one dead and one injured, as gunmen exchanged fire with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. The Lebanese Army was deployed to Syria Street and managed to rescue six Alawites who were kidnapped on their way to Jabal Mohsen.
On May 19 and 20, two civilians and two army soldiers were killed during renewed fighting between the neighbourhoods. By May 22, 12 people had been killed since renewed fighting began. The Lebanese army pulled out of the city on may 23, after being targeted. Six more were killed the following night, as mortars were used for the first time.
Since May 2012, violent political incidents have resulted in at least 145 fatalities;
On 22 May, Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem condoled Sunni Grand Mufti Mohammed Rashid Qabbani over the killings, and relayed the condolences of Hassan Nasrallah. The same day, Shadi Mawlawi, the Islamist whose arrest sparked the clashes in Tripoli, was released from custody, but Islamist protesters did not stop their sit-in protests, since they wanted 123 other Islamists freed as well. The Future Movement called for Mikati to immediately resign, claiming his cabinet had shown incapability to maintain the country’s security. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea accused Hezbollah of training and arming groups in Tripoli.
In August, Prime Minister Najib Miqati, a native of Tripoli, issued a statement saying that "efforts to drag Lebanon more and more into the conflict in Syria when what is required is for leaders to cooperate...to protect Lebanon from the danger" and urged the international community to help prevent Lebanon from being another theater in the Syrian civil war. He added: "The cabinet work is not a priority compared to what the country is witnessing when it comes to exposure to the Syrian crisis and attempts to transfer it to Lebanon. The country is in great danger."
An Nahar cited unnamed "western diplomatic sources" as stating that these incidents were the beginning of a Salafist revolution aimed at arming the uprising in Syria. Salafists in Lebanon have often voiced their support for the uprising in Syria. The March 14 alliance also accused the Syrian government of trying to drag Lebanon into its crisis. The Future Movement's former MP Mustafa Alloush said after regular weekly meeting: "It is actually an attempt to make of Tripoli a zone of terrorism. It also aims at striking Lebanon's northern area which has welcomed and helped out the Syrian displaced." Calls by Rifaat Eid, the head of the Arab Democratic Party, for a return of the Syrian army to Tripoli to impose security in the city were rejected by Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
The Syrian Civil War and its domestic impact have furthered the polarisation of Lebanese politics. The March 14 Alliance, dominated by Christian- and Sunni-based parties, is broadly sympathetic to the Syrian opposition to Bashar Al-Assad. In August, youth members of March 14 parties including Kataeb, Lebanese Forces, National Liberal Party, Future Movement and Islamic Group held a rally to demand the expulsion of the Syrian Ambassador. March 8 parties generally supported the continuation of the Assad regime, but analysts believe some groups within the coalition may seek new alliances if the Assad regime falls. More moderate members of the coalition in government have began distancing themselves from the Assad regime.
As of 13 February 2013, more than 182, 938 Syrian refugees are in Lebanon. As the number of Syrian refugees increases, the Lebanese Forces Party, the Kataeb Party, and the Free Patriotic Movement fear the country’s sectarian based political system is being undermined. Other parties, such as the mostly Shia Lebanese Option Gathering and the mostly Sunni Najjadeh Party have also taken stances close to March 14, including calling cancellation of agreements between the two countries.
On 22 August, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, in a meeting of the Security Council, described the situation as "precarious" and warned that a deteriorating situation in Syria could destabilise Lebanon.
On 25 May, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for restraint and said the U.S. was concerned the unrest in Syria would contribute instability in Lebanon. In May, Ambassador Maura Connelly met with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati to express her concern with the security situation in Tripoli and commended the government's efforts to defuse the situation.
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