What is going on in Lebanon’s Arsal?
Since the outset of the Syrian civil war, Lebanon has been daily pulled further and further into a downward spiral of instability and sporadic violence. From Tripoli to Sidon to the Bekaa Valley, the war next door has prompted bouts of fighting that, although locally contained, have contributed to a national picture of growing tensions. In addition, this past year has been punctuated by bursts of deadly suicide car bombings, most of which have been perpetrated by extremists against areas associated with Hezbollah, described as punishment for the Lebanese group’s game-changing military deployment to Syria alongside President Bashar Assad.Oct. 19, 2012: A car bomb went off near Ashrafieh’s Sassine Square, killing Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, head of the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch, and wounding dozens more. Hasan was integral in uncovering terrorist plots allegedly planned by former Minister Michel Samaha, an ally of Syria, and Syria’s Head of National Intelligence Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk. Damascus denied involvement.
April 30, 2013: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah formally acknowledged his party’s involvement in the Syrian war, flying in the face of the previous year’s Baabda declaration, which prohibited Lebanese parties from participating in external conflicts.
May 21-28, 2013: As the battle for Syria’s strategic Qalamoun region intensified, fighting in Tripoli broke out between the largely Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen, where residents back Assad, and predominantly Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh, where people support the Syrian opposition.
June 23-25, 2013: The Lebanese Army battled followers of extremist Sunni religious leader Ahmad al-Assir in Sidon. Members of the Jund al-Sham and Fatah al-Islam armed groups also joined the battle against the Army.
July 9, 2013: A bomb planted under a parked vehicle exploded in a parking lot in the residential neighborhood of Bir al-Abed, wounding 53. A little-known Syrian rebel brigade claimed responsibility for the attack, pointing to Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria as their motive.
Aug. 15, 2013: A car bomb exploded in the predominantly Shiite southern Beirut suburb of Ruwaiss during the evening rush hour, killing 30 people and wounding more than 200.
Aug. 23, 2013: Two car bombs exploded within minutes of each other outside the Al-Taqwa Mosque and the Al-Salam Mosque in Tripoli in the early afternoon, killing 47 people and wounding more than 300.
Nov. 19, 2013: Two suicide bombers, one on a motorcycle, another in a car, blew themselves up near the Iranian Embassy. At least 25 people were killed, including the Iranian cultural attaché, and wounded 150 others. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a Lebanon-based Al-Qaeda affiliate, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Dec. 4, 2013: A Hezbollah commander, Hassan Lakkis, was gunned down in the middle of the night outside his home by unknown assailants. Free Sunni Brigades in Baalbek claimed the murder, but Hezbollah blamed Israel, a charge the country denied.
Dec. 27, 2013: A remotely detonated car bomb exploded in the heart of Downtown Beirut, killing former Finance Minister Mohammad Chatah on his way to a meeting with the March 14 coalition. Five others died and around 70 people were severely wounded.
January-February, 2014: Seven deadly suicide car bombings occurred across the country, mostly in Beirut’s southern suburbs and the eastern Bekaa Valley town of Hermel – both areas associated with Hezbollah. All but one were claimed by either Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Nusra Front in Lebanon, or the Lebanese branch of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
April 1: Security forces implemented a security crackdown in Tripoli to put an end to roughly 20 outbreaks of fighting between two neighborhoods since the start of the Syrian war. Dozens of militia leaders and militants were arrested and dozens more escaped.
April 3: UNHCR announced that there were officially 1 million refugees from Syria in Lebanon.
April 10: Security forces began a security crackdown in the Bekaa Valley to put an end to car theft rings that were enabling suicide bomb plots, and arrested numerous wanted individuals in the area.
July 8: An elite Palestinian security force – formed in cooperation with Lebanese authorities – was finally deployed in the southern camp of Ain al-Hilweh in an attempt to stem an increasingly violent cycle of political assassinations and clashes.