Battle of Sidon (2013)

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Battle of Sidon
Part of the Syrian civil war spillover in Lebanon
Sidon 004.jpg
Date 23–25 June 2013
(2 days)
Location Sidon, Lebanon
Result Lebanese Army victory
  • Lebanese Army secures the city, militants escape[5]
Belligerents
 Lebanon Al-Assir militants
Al-Nusra Front[3]
Fatah al-Islam[4]
Jund al-Sham[3]
Al-Qaeda[3]
Commanders and leaders
Brig. Gen. Jean Kahwaji Ahmed Al-Assir
Strength
2000 soldiers 300 fighters[3]
Casualties and losses
Lebanese Army:
17–18 killed, 100–128 wounded, 4 vehicles damaged
Hezbollah:
4 killed, 15 wounded [6]
25–40 killed, 60 wounded, 65–70 captured
2 civilians killed
50 people killed overall[7]

The Battle of Sidon on June 2013 was part of the Syrian civil war spillover in Lebanon, and involved the Lebanese Army and Sunni militants in the city of Sidon, Lebanon. Clashes between the followers of militant preacher Ahmed Al-Assir resulted in the deaths of 17–18 soldiers, 25–40 al-Assir gunmen, two civilians, and according to some sources, four Hezbollah fighters.[8][9] The clashes were the deadliest since the Syria-related internal conflict in Lebanon began in 2011.[10]

Background[edit]

The Syrian civil war has heightened sectarian tensions within Lebanon, particularly between Sunni and Shia Muslims, many of whom support opposing sides and have entered the conflict in large numbers. Hezbollah leader Sayed Hassan Nasrallah announced on May 25th that Hezbollah would openly support President Bashar al-Assad's forces in fighting the insurgency in Syria. Some Sunni leaders in Lebanon have likewise at various points in time called for Jihad against the Assad regime in Syria, and urged Lebanese to join.[11][12]

In June 2013, clashes broke out in an eastern suburb of Sidon after several people attacked, threw stones at, and shattered the windows of a car belonging to Amjad al-Assir, the brother of Hezbollah critic and hard-line cleric Sheik Ahmad al-Assir. Al-Assir then gave Hezbollah a one week ultimatum to vacate apartments occupied by the group's supporters in the mostly Sunni city. Clashes broke out between gunmen backing Hezbollah and Sheik Al-Assir, both sides wielding automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. Officials stated that the gunmen fighting al-Assir's followers were believed to be Hezbollah sympathizers.[13]

Lebanese army troops deployed in the area of the fighting, which subsided after several hours. The military called on gunmen to withdraw immediately from the streets.

A group of Al-Assir followers are believed to have staged armed attacks on several civil apartments in Saida. These were reportedly identified as Hezbollah offices. Hezbollah backers viewed the attacks as provocations initiated by Saudi and Qatari-backed Sunni fundamentalists with the aim of expanding the Syrian civil war into Lebanon in order to bog down Hezbollah in domestic Lebanese conflicts and reduce its impact on the conflict in Syria.[citation needed]

Fighting[edit]

On 23 June 2013, heavy street fighting erupted between the Lebanese Army, with Hezbollah military backing,[14][15] and gunmen loyal to Al-Assir, with a clash at an Army checkpoint near the Abra complex that houses the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque.[16] McClatchy News and the Times of London reported that Hezbollah forces backed the army.[17] Roads were later blocked in other parts of the country, and the army came under fire in the Ain el-Hilweh camp.

The next day, the Lebanese army launched a crackdown on the pro-Assair militia attacking houses near his Mosque in Sidon from which Assair operates. At least four tanks and several army vehicles were destroyed. Lebanese Army commandos seized a complex controlled by gunmen loyal to Sheikh Ahmad Assir. Assir reportedly fled the complex at around 10 a.m., shortly after the Army stormed the premises which the military gradually gained control over throughout the day. 22 bodies were pulled out of Assir's mosque after the Army captured it. Sources said soldiers were still trading gunfire with snipers located on the rooftops of nearby buildings. Ahmed al-Assir was still at large with the Army having orders to capture or kill him after he was accused of killing soldiers in "cold blood". 65–70 gunmen, including several non-Lebanese nationals, reportedly either surrendered or were captured by Army units during the raid on the complex. Lebanon’s military prosecutor issued arrest warrants against Assir and 123 of his followers. The warrants included the names of Assir's brother, and singer Fadl Shaker, who gave up his singing career to follow Al-Assir.[18][19][3]

The raid on the compound at noon came after an attempt by a group of Salafi preachers to mediate a truce reached a dead end, with the Army determined to continue its operations until Assir was captured and his followers crushed, the sources said.[20] Some sources claimed Hezbollah fighters had backed the Lebanese Army, but this was strongly denied by Lebanese Defence Minister Fayez Ghosn, who insisted the army fought alone.[21]

Overall, at least 50 people died during the fighting.[22] 17–18 soldiers, 25–40 militants[23][24][25] and reportedly four Hezbollah fighters[26] were killed. Two civilians were killed,[27] including a bodyguard of a cleric, who tried to reach the fighting to negotiate a ceasefire.[28] 100–128 Lebanese soldiers, 60 pro-Assir militants, over 50 civilians and reportedly 15 Hezbollah fighters were wounded.[29][30]

Aftermath[edit]

Partly as a result of Assir’s calls for help while holed up in his mosque in Sidon, thousands of youths in the outskirts of a slum in Cairo, Egypt attacked a Shia gathering there and killed its leader and three of his followers.[31] Assir denounced the army as Shia stooges and urged soldiers to defect from the Lebanese army and join him, but this was condemned by the grand mufti of Lebanon.[32][33]

After McClatchy News and the Times of London reported that the Lebanese Army had fought alongside Hezbollah in the battle, the Army threatened legal action against news institutions that made such reports. Shortly after those threats, video of Hezbollah fighting alongside the Army was broadcast on Lebanese television. The Army also came under fire from human rights activists for the videotaped beating of one detainee from the battle and the death during questioning of a second arrestee. [34]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nicholas Blanford (24 June 2013). "CS Monitor". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  2. ^ "McClatchy". Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Al Qaida-linked Nusra Front rebels blamed for bloody fight against Lebanese army in Sidon". Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  4. ^ "Violents affrontements près du camp palestinien de Aïn el-Héloué". L'Orient-Le Jour. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  5. ^ "Mission accomplished, Assir on the run". The Daily Star Newspaper - Lebanon. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  6. ^ "Mission accomplished, Assir on the run". The Daily Star Newspaper - Lebanon. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  7. ^ "UN says Syria conflict makes 'impact' on Lebanon". Zee News. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  8. ^ "Lebanese Army storms Assir complex, preacher flees". The Daily Star Newspaper - Lebanon. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  9. ^ "Mission accomplished, Assir on the run". The Daily Star Newspaper - Lebanon. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  10. ^ Thomson Reuters Foundation. "Lebanon faces tumult after deadliest Syria-related clashes". Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  11. ^ "Mustaqbal Rejects Calls for Jihad in Syria, Urges Hizbullah to Withdraw Fighters". Naharnet. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  12. ^ "Asir Rejects to Withdraw Jihad Call, Urges Clerics to Support Fatwa". Naharnet. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  13. ^ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/18/lebanon-clashes_n_3459054.html Huffington Post
  14. ^ "McClatchy". Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  15. ^ http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21580162-sectarian-rivalry-reverberating-region-making-many-muslims Islam’s old schism: Sunnis v Shias, here and there
  16. ^ "10 Troops Martyred in Clashes with al-Asir's Gunmen in Abra — Naharnet". Naharnet.com. Retrieved 2013-06-24. 
  17. ^ http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21580162-sectarian-rivalry-reverberating-region-making-many-muslims Islam’s old schism: Sunnis v Shias, here and there
  18. ^ "Lebanese army storms Islamist mosque as Syria crisis spreads". Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  19. ^ "Lebanese Army storms Assir complex, preacher flees". The Daily Star Newspaper - Lebanon. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  20. ^ http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Local-News/2013/Jun-24/221395-fierce-clashes-rock-south-lebanon-city-for-second-day.ashx#ixzz2X9bBrhZD The Daily Star
  21. ^ "Lebanon Defense Minister: The Army Fought Alone Against Assir". Al Akhbar English. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  22. ^ "UN says Syria conflict makes 'impact' on Lebanon". Zee News. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  23. ^ "Lebanese Army storms Assir complex, preacher flees". The Daily Star Newspaper - Lebanon. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  24. ^ "Mission accomplished, Assir on the run". The Daily Star Newspaper - Lebanon. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  25. ^ "Lebanese army storms Islamist mosque as Syria crisis spreads - 16 soldiers killed". Haaretz.com. 24 June 2013. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  26. ^ "Mission accomplished, Assir on the run". The Daily Star Newspaper - Lebanon. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  27. ^ "Lebanese Army storms Assir complex, preacher flees". The Daily Star Newspaper - Lebanon. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  28. ^ "12 troops killed in Lebanon clashes with Sunni radicals". Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  29. ^ "Mission accomplished, Assir on the run". The Daily Star Newspaper - Lebanon. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  30. ^ "Lebanese army storms Islamist mosque as Syria crisis spreads - 16 soldiers killed". Haaretz.com. 24 June 2013. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  31. ^ http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21580162-sectarian-rivalry-reverberating-region-making-many-muslims Islam’s old schism: Sunnis v Shias, here and there
  32. ^ "Qabbani Rejects Army Defection Calls, Warns Sidon Incident Boosts Sedition". Naharnet. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  33. ^ http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21580162-sectarian-rivalry-reverberating-region-making-many-muslims Islam’s old schism: Sunnis v Shias, here and there
  34. ^ "McClatchy". Retrieved 30 October 2014.