Syrian Civil War spillover in Lebanon
|Syrian Civil War spillover in Lebanon|
|Part of the spillover of the Syrian Civil War|
Lebanese army in Tripoli after 2012 sectarian clashes
|Anti-Syrian government militants:||Pro-Syrian government militants:||Lebanese government:|
|Commanders and leaders|
Majed al-Majed †
Hassan al-Laqqis †
620+ killed and 2,280~ wounded
Fighting from the Syrian Civil War has spilled over into Lebanon as Lebanese opponents and supporters of the Syrian government have travelled to Syria to fight and attack each other on Lebanese soil. The Syrian conflict has been described as having stoked a "resurgence of sectarian violence in Lebanon", with Lebanon's Sunni Muslims mostly supporting the rebels in Syria, while Shi'ites have largely supported Assad, whose Alawite minority is usually described as an offshoot of Shi'a Islam. Killings, unrest, and kidnappings of foreign citizens across Lebanon has resulted.
In mid 2011, seven people were killed and 59 wounded in a fight between gunmen in Tripoli. 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. As of December 2013 there have been at least 355 fatalities and more than 2,000 injuries. Among Lebanon's political blocs the anti-Syrian Saudi-backed March 14 Alliance supports the Syrian rebels, and the Iranian-backed pro-Syrian March 8 Alliance supports the Syrian government.
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.
From the inception of the violence that began in Syria as a result of the Arab Spring, the Syrian Civil War has produced and inspired a great deal of strife and unrest among armed factions. Prior to the Battle of Arsal in August of 2014, the Lebanese Army has tried to keep out of it and the violence has been mostly between various factions within the country and overt Syrian involvement has been limited to airstrikes and occasional accidental incursions.
Deaths and injuries 2012-14
Between May 2012 and July 2014, violent political incidents had resulted in at least 422-438 fatalities and 2,271 injuries. In August of 2014, starting with the Militant Invasion at the Battle of Arsal at the beginning of the month and intense fighting that included both the Syrian and Lebanese armies in Arsal, and the Bekaa Valley at the end of the month, the fighting had reached a new and different phase. The August casualties nearly equaled half the number of the previous two years put together.
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.
Domestic political reactions
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 14 March parties including Kataeb, Lebanese Forces, National Liberal Party, Future Movement and Islamic Group held a rally to demand the expulsion of the Syrian Ambassador. 8 March 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 14 March, 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.
- Saudi Arabia
- United States
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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