A day in Lebanon

Syria’s sectarian war is spilling over to the neighbouring Lebanon, leaving many concerned over it’s future.

Thursday was another eventful day in Lebanon. It wasn’t any different from previous days, but I thought today’s headlines were particularly telling of the situation.

In the northern city of tripoli there was another sectarian attack against the Alawite community. Four people were shot and injured. President Bashar al-Assad is an Alawite. The group called ‘Military Committee to Avenge Victims of Tripoli bombings’ said it was behind the attack.

Tensions also escalated in the city after a soldier was wounded by gunfire while the army was taking down Syrian flags from buildings in the Alawite dominated Jabal Mohsen neighbourhood and Syrian opposition flags raised in the Sunni district of Bab al-Tabbaneh. The rival neighbourhoods have engaged in deadly clashes since the uprising in Syria began in March 2011.

Hours later, gunmen erected a checkpoint in the area of al-Baqqar to prevent Alawites from entering the neighborhood.

In Hermel, east Lebanon, the Shia group Hezbollah along with the security forces set up checkpoints after explosives-rigged vehicles reportedly entered the Bekaa Valley region from Syria. Security sources were quoted as saying three explosives-laden vehicles entered Lebanon near the Sunni border town of Arsal and made their way into Bekaa Valley. Hermel, a stronghold of Hezbollah, is suspected to be the target.

Latest killings

A nephew of Lebanon’s agriculture minister Hussein Hajj Hassan – who is a Hezbollah member – has been killed along with three other Hezbollah fighters in Syria’s Qalamoun region. Ali Rida Fuad Hajj Hassan was 22.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah met his Lebanese counterpart Najib Mikati in Beirut. He said that the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are under the control of the Lebanese state.

Ah, Mr Prime minister I beg to disagree. We were at a Palestinian camp in Beirut on Saturday. Lebanese security forces may be stationed outside the camp, but once inside, we were prevented from filming by Palestinian armed factions. One of the officials running the camp told me that the media is trying to drag Palestinians into the conflict.

“They are saying booby trapped cars are being assembled in the camps and we have nothing to do with the tensions in Lebanon that are a result of the Syrian crisis,” was what he told me.

If the camps are under the control of the state, then the armed men couldn’t have forced us to leave.

Bomb hoax

Did I forget anything else? Oh yes, the bomb hoax.

Security forces inspected the vicinity of the Saudi embassy in Beirut’s Qoraitem neighbourhood after a hoax bomb threat against the mission, the Internal Security Forces General-Directorate said. It said College Protestant Francais, which lies near the mission, received a phone call at around 11:15am, claiming that a bomb was planted near one of the buildings near the embassy. “You should watch the children,” the caller said. Police and explosives experts searched the area, but nothing was found.

This is a country on the edge. Only last week almost 30 people were killed in a double suicide attack outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut.

PS: The main Beirut-Damascus highway has been blocked by protestors. The action was called for by Salafist head in Lebanon Dai al-Islam al-Shahhal who threatened to escalate the situation if Abdul Qader Abdul Fattah and Abdul Nasser Shatah were not freed. The two men were arrested by the army intelligence for alleged links to attacks against Hezbollah. Some Sunni groups accuse the military of siding with Hezbollah and the Syria government.

One would think Lebanon is at war. It is, actually. But for many Lebanese, it is just another day. Restaurants and pubs are packed. But don’t doubt that at least part of tonight’s conversations will be about today’s events and whether Lebanon can hold together as a country.

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