Beirut car bombing sparked weekend unrest in Lebanon

Lebanon’s religious and political leaders have called for calm as protests and clashes have continued into Monday in the capital of Beirut and northern city of Tripoli. Fighting was sparked after the funeral of the Internal Security Forces intelligence chief Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, killed Friday in a car bombing. The car bombing is widely ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Lebanon's religious and political leaders have called for calm as protests and clashes have continued into Monday in the capital of Beirut and northern city of Tripoli. Fighting was sparked after the funeral of the Internal Security Forces intelligence chief Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, killed Friday in a car bombing. The car bombing is widely believed to be tied to the conflict in Syria and has ignited Lebanese sectarian tensions. Hassan was an outspoken critic of President Bashar al-Assad and had links to the opposition March 14 coalition of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Protesters attempted to storm the Grand Serail's offices of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, allied with Hezbollah's governing bloc, calling for Mikati to resign. Mikati said he would resign, but rescinded after a request from Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman to wait until there is time for political talks. Sporadic clashes in Beirut's southern and western regions between Sunni and Shiite districts continue to flare up, particularly on the edge of the Tariq al-Jadida neighborhood, which borders the Shiite dominated southern suburbs. The Lebanese Armed Forces have deployed troops backed by armed personnel carriers to restore calm and have begun raiding suspected militant hideouts in the outskirts of Beirut. Violent clashes in the northern city of Tripoli, which has frequently seen the spillover from the Syrian crisis, broke out killing at least four people, including two children.

Syria

Bombings hit Damascus and Aleppo over the weekend. Sunday morning, a bomb reportedly set in a parked vehicle exploded in Damascus's Old City in the Bab Touma, or St. Thomas Gate, predominantly Christian neighborhood killing at least 13 people and wounding 29 others. The strike was near a police station and took place while nearby churches were holding Sunday services. Syrian troops stormed the opposition held Damascus suburb of Harasta, sparking deadly clashes. In Aleppo, a suicide bombing exploded outside a private Franco-Syrian hospital in a primarily Christian district according to government officials. There were no casualties other than the bomber. Additionally, clashes continued in the districts of Salaheddin and Izaa as well as in the Old City. Meanwhile, U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus appealing for a ceasefire over the Eid al-Ahda holiday that begins Friday. According to the Syrian foreign ministry, Assad and Brahimi discussed "objective and rational circumstances to stop the violence from any side in order to prepare for a comprehensive dialogue among the Syrians." Arab League Deputy Secretary General Ahmed Ben Hellli said that after Brahimi's meeting with Assad and opposition representatives a temporary truce for the holiday is unlikely.

Lebanon’s religious and political leaders have called for calm as protests and clashes have continued into Monday in the capital of Beirut and northern city of Tripoli. Fighting was sparked after the funeral of the Internal Security Forces intelligence chief Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, killed Friday in a car bombing. The car bombing is widely believed to be tied to the conflict in Syria and has ignited Lebanese sectarian tensions. Hassan was an outspoken critic of President Bashar al-Assad and had links to the opposition March 14 coalition of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Protesters attempted to storm the Grand Serail’s offices of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, allied with Hezbollah’s governing bloc, calling for Mikati to resign. Mikati said he would resign, but rescinded after a request from Lebanon’s President Michel Suleiman to wait until there is time for political talks. Sporadic clashes in Beirut’s southern and western regions between Sunni and Shiite districts continue to flare up, particularly on the edge of the Tariq al-Jadida neighborhood, which borders the Shiite dominated southern suburbs. The Lebanese Armed Forces have deployed troops backed by armed personnel carriers to restore calm and have begun raiding suspected militant hideouts in the outskirts of Beirut. Violent clashes in the northern city of Tripoli, which has frequently seen the spillover from the Syrian crisis, broke out killing at least four people, including two children.

Syria

Bombings hit Damascus and Aleppo over the weekend. Sunday morning, a bomb reportedly set in a parked vehicle exploded in Damascus’s Old City in the Bab Touma, or St. Thomas Gate, predominantly Christian neighborhood killing at least 13 people and wounding 29 others. The strike was near a police station and took place while nearby churches were holding Sunday services. Syrian troops stormed the opposition held Damascus suburb of Harasta, sparking deadly clashes. In Aleppo, a suicide bombing exploded outside a private Franco-Syrian hospital in a primarily Christian district according to government officials. There were no casualties other than the bomber. Additionally, clashes continued in the districts of Salaheddin and Izaa as well as in the Old City. Meanwhile, U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus appealing for a ceasefire over the Eid al-Ahda holiday that begins Friday. According to the Syrian foreign ministry, Assad and Brahimi discussed "objective and rational circumstances to stop the violence from any side in order to prepare for a comprehensive dialogue among the Syrians." Arab League Deputy Secretary General Ahmed Ben Hellli said that after Brahimi’s meeting with Assad and opposition representatives a temporary truce for the holiday is unlikely.

Headlines  

  • Clashes broke out between Kuwaiti police and protesters, after tens of thousands of protesters filled the streets this weekend in the capital after the government announced elections and a change to electoral law.
  • U.S. and Iranian officials denied planning nuclear talks after the New York Times reported the parties had agreed, in principle, to negotiations after the U.S. presidential election.
  • After years of delay, Palestinians held municipal elections in the West Bank. The voter turnout was low, and Hamas boycotted the elections.
  • Jordanian authorities reported they had uncovered an al-Qaeda plot targeting "shopping centers, residential areas, diplomats, and foreign nationals." 

Arguments and Analysis

The Arab religious-secular balance‘ (Rami G. Khouri, The Daily Star)

"There are many ways in which one can analyze the current transformations across parts of the Arab world in the wave of populist revolutions that overthrew some dictators and still threaten others.

The one lens that I find most useful for analyzing the changes under way and the challenges ahead sees the events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen – where the transformation processes are most advanced – as aiming to achieve a series of new balances in several critical realms.

The most important ones in my view are the balance between military and civilian authority, between religiosity and secularism, between central government and decentralized regional authority, between the private and public sectors, between tribal/sectarian and national identity, and between indigenous and foreign values. Whether and to what extent these balances reach a point of equilibrium that reflects national consensus will largely determine if these countries remain stable and enjoy a satisfactory governance system, regardless of its degree of democracy."

Western policy on Syria is failing on a monumental scale‘ (Peter Hain, The Guardian)

"If Russia and Iran have been culpable, there has been a catastrophic failure of diplomacy by the west and its allies. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s call for a ceasefire and an arms embargo is a welcome challenge to the west’s floundering policy. Britain, France and the US, as well as their allies, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, need to recognise that neither side is going to win the civil war engulfing Syria. Nor will the Turkey’s call for western military intervention to halt the humanitarian disaster resolve the crisis. A political solution has to be the priority."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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