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A Decade of Violence

p. 34-35

Texte intégral

1After fifteen rather peaceful years, devoted to its economic reconstruction in the shadow of the Syrian tutelage, the country has entered a new cycle of violence in 2005. Militias and armed groups have reappeared in broad daylight in territories they have taken control of. Standing at the ready, the Lebanese Army has been struggling to step in while remaining the last symbol of national unity.

The resurgence of political violence

2Since 2005 and the assassination of the former President of the Council Rafiq Hariri, the surge of violence has been multifaceted: political assassinations and attacks in public places, the 2006 war, and localized armed conflicts such as in 2007 in Nahr el-Bared (Northern Lebanon), then in 2008 in Beirut, at the border of the southern mostly Shiite suburb and mostly Druze areas of Mount Lebanon, in the Bekaa Valley and in Tripoli. The capital of the North governorate has become a chronic hotspot, agitated by intermittent fights. So has Saida, where violent clashes have taken place, especially in 2013. Moreover, the situation at the border has flared up. Beside the permanent hot spot linked to the Chebaa farms, sporadic and limited launches of missiles have occurred, sent by Israel and various groups, which have sometimes been hard to identify. The North and the Bekaa Valley have also been concentrating fighters involved in the Syrian Civil War who have been coming and going across the border, clashing with one another, including in the Sunni area of Aarsal.

Figure I-18: Distribution of events linked to political violence in Lebanon (2005-2014)


3The 2006 Israeli attacks were by far the most murderous as they resulted in more than 1,100 Lebanese military and civilian victims (as well as in the death of 120 Israeli civilians and 118 soldiers). However, the outbreaks of violence recorded in 2007-2008 and from 2012 to early 2015 amount to a total of deaths, which is almost equivalent: an imperfect survey based on Wikipedia reveals that they may have cost the life of 1,000 individuals.

Figure I-19: Deaths due to political violence in Lebanon (2005-2014)


The return of militias

4Over the years, Hezbollah has become a leading actor of the Lebanese political scene and now dominates the southern area of the country, the southern suburb of Beirut and parts of the Bekaa Valley. But beside the rise of the “Party of God”, the major feature of the period is the return of armed parties. In 2008, at odds with a governmental decision threatening its communication system, Hezbollah and its allies took control of several neighborhoods located in West Beirut that the fighters linked to the Future Movement turned out to be unable to defend. The conflict affected other regions, including the Chouf and Aley areas, where Hezbollah fought Druze militiamen, and in Tripoli, where clashes opposed Alawite militiamen and local Sunni groups.

5In 2007, the Islamist organization Fatah al-Islam had already occupied the Palestinian camp located in Nahr el-Bared and initiated a long fight against the Lebanese Army. It lasted more than three months, led to the destruction of vast parts of the camp and the deaths of 163 soldiers, 222 fighters of the Islamist group and 22 civilians. In the Palestinian camps, which are not subjected to Lebanese sovereignty, the nationalist groups are now confronted with an upsurge of jihadi organizations. The war in Syria and the regional actors involved in it reinforce these jihadists ideologically, financially and materially (with weapons). The latter have been carrying out operations, including in Tripoli and Saida, where they have been fighting either other Lebanese political armed groups or the army.

6Faced with this resurgence of violence, the Lebanese army played a key role by stepping in to prevent the fights from expanding in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley, including in Aarsal where radical Islamist groups tend to settle durably and capture Lebanese hostages, killing some of them. Yet the army lacks resources and depends on foreign aid for its equipment (American, Saudi, French). Nonetheless, it stands as a symbol of national unity. The actual and the two former Presidents held positions in it. The subtle balance achieved by the careful appointment of high-ranking officers prevents the grip of one party or another over the army and turns it into a fragile bulwark against the threat of a collapse.

Figure I-20: A divided country, the distribution of militias across the Lebanese territory

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