Syrian violence spills over border into Lebanon (CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR) By Nicholas Blanford ABBOUDIYAH, NORTH LEBANON 05/14/12)
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Shootings and kidnappings increase along the Syrian-Lebanese border,
as Lebanese supporters of Syrian government and Syrian opposition
A recent escalation in cross-border shootings and tit-for-tat
kidnappings along Lebanon’s northern frontier with Syria is fueling
concerns that the yearlong violence in Syria is spilling into Lebanon.
In the past week alone, several people, including an old woman, have
been shot dead allegedly by Syrian soldiers firing into Lebanon;
clashes have resumed between rival factions in Lebanon’s perennially
tense second-largest city, Tripoli, leaving four people dead; and
some 40 Sunni Syrians have been kidnapped in reprisal for the
abduction of three Lebanese Shiites.
The Lebanese government, which is backed by the regime of Bashar al-
Assad, the Syrian president, has adopted a policy of disassociation
with the crisis in neighboring Syria, mindful that Lebanon is deeply
polarized between supporters and opponents of the Assad regime. But
Sunni residents of villages strung along the northern border with
Syria accuse the Lebanese government and security services of either
failing to block Syrian transgressions or actively colluding with the
Syrian regime in some of the abductions.
“Any person who is wanted by the Syrians is easily picked up because
the Lebanese authorities are working with the Syrian security,” says
Ali, a 22 year-old resident of the border village of Abboudiyah. Like
others interviewed here, Ali requested anonymity due to the
sensitivity of the subject.
Last Thursday evening, Mahmoud Ibrahim, a father of four children,
was kidnapped from Abboudiyah allegedly by four members of the pro-
Syrian regime Shabiha militia and taken across the border into Syria.
According to residents and eyewitnesses, Mr. Ibrahim had been
contacted by some Syrian friends who had asked him to meet them at
the official border crossing at the northern end of the village. When
he arrived beside the customs post, four Shabiha militiamen entered
Lebanese territory and used an electric stun gun to subdue Ibrahim
before dragging him back across the border.
The angry residents of Abboudiyah, almost all of them supporters of
the Syrian opposition, temporarily blockaded the international road
leading to Syria.
“The Lebanese authorities asked us to give them four days to secure
Mahmoud’s release,” says a close relative of Ibrahim´s. “We are
building our hopes on that. Otherwise, we will cut the international
road and no one will come in or out of Syria. Then we will think of
the next step.”
Border watched more closely
The international highway is little more than a narrow, dusty
potholed lane passing through Abboudiyah, which sits on the southern
bank of the Kabir River, the frontier between Lebanon and Syria. The
road is choked with parked trucks waiting to cross into Syria. The
Syrian customs officers are being more thorough than usual to ensure
that none of the vehicles entering Syria are carrying weapons and
ammunition for the armed opposition.
The kidnapping of Ibrahim is not the first such security incident in
Abboudiyah, locals say. Two weeks ago, Adnan Mohammed, a cousin of
Ibrahim´s, was snatched while walking on the southern bank of the
river. No news has been heard about him. Five days ago, Shabiha
militiamen crossed the border again and opened fire on a house
belonging to Saleh Mansour, according to local residents.
“The Syrians tried luring him to the border crossing like they did
Mahmoud, but Saleh didn’t fall for the trick,” says Ibrahim’s
Villager: ´We are all targets´
What remains unclear is why the Syrians would want to kidnap anyone
from Abboudiyah. The residents claimed that the village was well
known for supporting the Syrian opposition and that made them
potential targets for the Syrian regime.
“We are all targets here. Mahmoud in particular was known for bad-
mouthing Assad,” says Haitham, who was sitting in a barbershop with
The Syrian authorities have accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of funding
and arming the Free Syrian Army, the main military opposition force
in Syria. Two weeks ago, the Lebanese Navy intercepted a ship off the
Lebanese coast carrying 150 tons of weapons, including US-made TOW
anti-tank missiles. The ship, which had sailed from Libya, was due to
dock in Tripoli from where the arms were to be smuggled into Syria.
Kidnappings are not limited to the Abboudiyah area, however. Farther
east along the border in the dusty plain of the northern Bekaa
Valley, the powerful Jaafar clan is holding some 40 Syrians kidnapped
on Friday in retaliation for the earlier abduction by the Syrian
opposition of three Lebanese Shiites, one of them a Jaafar, in the
Syrian town of Zeit, which lies just across the border.
The reason for the kidnapping of the three Lebanese remains unclear,
although the reaction by the Jaafar clan was entirely predictable in
an area where tribal loyalties and customs run deep and the Lebanese
state exerts little influence.
“We are an army of 25,000; and if our people are not released
quickly, we will go to war against the abductors,” says Ali Jaafar, a
25-year-old resident of Qasr, home to much of the Jaafar clan.
In general, the Shiites of the Bekaa Valley, many of whom are members
or followers of the militant Hezbollah organization, support the
Syrian regime. The Sunnis, however, support the Syrian opposition,
ensuring that political differences take on a hard sectarian edge.
In the agricultural flatlands known as Masharei al-Qaa adjacent to
the border, an elderly woman was shot dead last week by Syrian
soldiers as she sat beside a mosque. Her daughter was wounded. On
Saturday night, Syrian troops staged a brief incursion into the same
area in an apparent attempt to capture Free Syrian Army militants or
arms smugglers. According to a Sunni activist who has been assisting
Syrian refugees in the Bekaa village of Jdeide, two FSA militants,
one a Syrian from Homs and the other a Lebanese Sunni, were recently
killed by Syrian troops who stormed their hideout in Masharei al-Qaa.
(© The Christian Science Monitor. 05/14/12)
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