Lebanon Grappling With Syria Violence Spillover
Lebanon has been battling to contain a spillover of violence from Syria that includes a mass of kidnappings that recalled the dark days of the fragile country’s own civil war.
In the face of the mass kidnappings in Lebanon, several oil-rich Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar have ordered their citizens to leave the country immediately because of threats against them for opposing the Syrian regime, reports Yahoo! News.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati said of the 1975-90 civil war when Western hostages were seized by armed groups that:
“This brings us back to the days of the painful war, a page that Lebanese citizens have been trying to turn.”
The latest unrest in Lebanon is just one time of many that the violence in neighboring Syria has spilled into the country, who has an already fragile security situation with cross-border shootings, shelling by the Syrian army, tit-for-tat kidnappings, and sectarian clashes. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland stated:
“Our concern in Lebanon, first and foremost, has been the spillover from the Syrian conflict and the fact that the sectarian tensions in Syria are potentially being replicated in Lebanon.”
Mena FN notes that Shiite gunmen in Lebanon claim that they have kidnapped over 20 Syrian people after one of their relatives was captured in Syria by the rebel Free Syrian Army. Members of the Meqdad clan have said that their hostages include a Turkish businessman, a Saudi, and several Syrians that are reportedly rebel fighters.
Clan spokesman Maher Al-Miqdad has also threatened that the group will kidnap more Syrian nationals unless the rebels free his relative. Lebanon’s Minister of Tourism Fady Abboud stated:
“I am very angry about what is happening here. There are some in Syria and throughout the region who are trying to divide the whole region into different religious states, which goes along quite will with the Jewish state we have here. They are trying to take this part of the world back to the Middle Ages and they are succeeding because of our stupidity.”
Despite the violence in both Syria and Lebanon, many middle to upper-class refugees are dragging their heels at the prospect of leaving, hoping that the continuing violence finally comes to an end.