Current Weather
The Spy FM

Lebanese Fear Spillover Violence From Syria

Filed by KOSU News in World News.
June 11, 2012

A rash of kidnappings in Lebanon over the weekend, coupled with deadly cross-border attacks by the Syrian army, are all worrying signs that Syria’s troubles are continuing to spill over into its smaller and weaker neighbor.

In the most recent incidents, a Sunni sheik known to support the Syrian uprising was abducted. In retaliation, several Alawites aligned with the Syrian government were taken. Days before that, the Syrian army shot several people on Lebanese territory.

The troubles start in eastern Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, where residents say Syrian army vehicles cross over the border, come through the valley and shoot Lebanese people. Since the beginning of the year, Syrian attacks have killed six people in the area; many more have been injured.

In a hospital room outside the valley and away from the Syrian border, Lebanese farm worker Khatib al-Khoujairy is recovering from five bullet wounds: three in his abdomen, one in his leg and one in his arm.

Khatib says just last week, he and a few other workers were walking in a cherry orchard when he saw dozens of Syrian soldiers hiding among the trees.

“I saw the soldiers, and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground,” he says. One worker died, the others were driven to the hospital in private cars. There was no sign of the Lebanese army.

Now the workers, and the family who owns the farm, have abandoned it.

Unclear Syrian Motives

Exactly what the Syrian soldiers were after remains unclear. Could the farmers be smuggling arms to Syrian rebels? Could they be rebels themselves? Are they just being punished for housing Syrian refugees who oppose the government?

What is known is this isn’t the only place where an attack like this has been reported.

In April, the Syrian army killed one man and injured several others in Turkey. That sparked international outcry. Turkey threatened to invoke the self-defense article of the NATO treaty, which says that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all.

But Lebanon is different, in many ways.

First, analysts say, the Syrian army used to occupy Lebanon, and still acts as if it controls certain areas, especially those that are known havens of cross-border smuggling.

Second, though Lebanon’s own civil war ended more than 20 years ago, the Lebanese army has yet to deploy along all of the country’s borders. And now that the crisis in Syria has ramped up, says Nadim Houry, who heads the Human Rights Watch office in Beirut, the Lebanese state remains absent, unable to resolve the growing conflicts in its own country.

“That’s not sustainable. I think what’s needed, and what we’ve been repeating from the beginning to the Lebanese state is, one, you need to protect all people present on your territory. And the Lebanese state has the authority as well to control any sort of illegal activity on its borders,” Houry says. “But it can no longer act like an ostrich and keep its head in the sand and not do any of that.”

Houry acknowledges that an assertion of Lebanese sovereignty is easier said than done in a place that remains so divided internally and with what is happening in neighboring Syria.

Lebanese politicians from all sides are sitting down to a long-awaited national dialogue this week. Analysts say they expect few results. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

9PM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

View the program guide!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center