A car bomb detonated early yesterday near a Hezbollah base in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley has deepened concerns that sectarian tensions generated by the Iran-backed terror group’s participation in Syria’s nearly three-year-old conflict are spilling over into Lebanon. Shiite Hezbollah has provided critical support to the Bashar al-Assad regime, allowing it to steadily erode grains made over previous months and years by the largely Sunni opposition, but triggering a wave of blowback that has seen Sunni fighters from within and beyond the region target Lebanese territory in retaliation. This morning’s car bomb targeted a Hezbollah position and, according to early reports broadcast by Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency, injured both Hezbollah members and civilians. Hezbollah’s Al Manar station reported that the targeted post was – per reports conveyed by The New York Times – “a rotation point for Hezbollah fighters coming and going from Syria.”
Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria has heightened political and sectarian tensions in Lebanon, where the population is sharply divided between supporters and opponents of the Syrian government. In August, twin car bombs struck southern Beirut neighborhoods where Hezbollah has many supporters; Syrian insurgents or their Lebanese sympathizers were widely blamed. In interviews in Baalbek on Monday, residents said they were concerned that the town would be targeted by Syrian insurgents or their supporters because of Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria, although Baalbek is religiously mixed and includes Sunnis, Christians and some Shiites who do not support Hezbollah or its intervention. “We are worried that someone could send a car bomb into the market,” said a woman who supports Hezbollah but is not a member, and who asked not to be identified because she feared alienating powerful local leaders.
The steady stream of Syria-linked violence targeting Hezbollah inside Lebanon has substantially eroded the group’s image as a group seeking to protect Lebanese territory from Israel, and has instead triggered criticism across the Arab world that Hezbollah is willing to endanger Lebanese stability in order to promote Iranian interests. Analysts now fear that the group may attempt to bolster its old brand by provoking an incident with Jerusalem that would provide it with a pretext to battle the Jewish state.
[Photo: Platen Flanke / YouTube ]