Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lebanon in Syria

The New York Times reports on Lebanese involvement in Syria's civil war:
Syrian activists and rebels, and opponents of Hezbollah in Lebanon, have long accused the Islamist party of taking a direct role in the Syrian conflict, but until recently, evidence was thin.
Recently, however, a spate of funerals in the Bekaa Valley for Hezbollah members — including a military commander — killed while performing “jihad duties” has provided firmer signs that the organization is sending men to fight in Syria.
Free Syrian Army fighters in towns around the city of Qusayr, just across the border from Lebanon, say that Hezbollah is reinforcing government troops engaged in a hard-fought offensive in the area. Last week, the Free Syrian Army, saying that it had captured 13 Hezbollah fighters near Qusayr, threatened to strike Hezbollah strongholds in south Beirut. The rebels said the recent Hezbollah funerals were for men killed in Syria.
Free Syrian Army  rebels also say that Hezbollah has for several weeks been launching Katyusha and Grad rockets at Syrian targets from territory that it controls in the northeastern Bekaa Valley.
While Hizbullah supports their patrons in the Syrian government, Lebanese Sunnis are against them:
Residents of Masharih al-Qaa say they only provide non-military support for Syria’s rebels. But there have been several reports of gun battles spanning the border there and elsewhere. 
Others in Lebanon, meanwhile, are offering more proactive backing for the Syrian rebels, with Lebanese Sunni fighters openly streaming into Syria to fight against the government. 
A Sunni militia commander in Lebanon’s restive second city, Tripoli, said there had been a rise in the number of Lebanese fighters heading to Syria recently. The commander, who identified himself only as Abu Bera, said some were joining extremist groups outside the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army, like Jabhat al-Nusra, a jihadist militia suspected of links to Al Qaeda.
This poses a danger that the war in Syria could also destabilize Lebanon, something no major faction in the latter country probably wants.

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