Syrian Civil War Spillover: Violence in Lebanon

Posted: 26th June 2013
By: S3

June 23/24 violence in the Lebanese port city of Sidon dealt the Lebanese military its worst losses since the start of the conflict in Syria.  18 Lebanese soldiers were killed in clashes with radical Sunni Sheikh Ahmed al-Assir, who lost an estimated 40 supporters in the 48 hour battle.

Using Recorded Future’s timeline view we can see multiple instances of Arabic language Open Source information (OSINT) that detailed rising tensions in Sidon.  In particular, the early June assassination attempt on a prominent Sunni cleric and mid-June Lebanese security force deployments signaled rising tensions in Sidon.  The below visualization of OSINT from June 2013 details the violence in Sidon and continued sectarian spillover from the Syrian Civil War.

The conflict in Sidon is seen as a serious escalation in Syrian spillover fighting, as al-Assir has spoken out against Shi’a Lebanese Hizballah, which in late May entered the Syrian Civil War on the side of President Bashar al-Assad (a member of the Alawite religious group which follows a branch of Shi’a Islam).  There are conflicting reports as to the extent of Hizballah’s involvement in the 23/24 June conflict on the side of the Lebanese military.

Reuters highlighted the sectarian nature of the conflict: …  many (Sunnis) see double standards in the army’s tough response in Sidon and its inaction earlier this month when Hezbollah fighters killed an unarmed protester in Beirut – in plain view of the military.  

The Los Angeles Times echoed this sentiment:  The clashes in Sidon reveal the growing militancy of some Lebanese Sunnis, whose anger is fueled both by Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria  and the Syrian government’s crackdown on mostly Sunni rebels in that country.

Iran’s PressTV provided further motivating factors:  Another cleric in Sidon, Imam Maher Hamoud, has insisted that Assir had earlier vowed retaliation over the Syrian army’s recent victory in the strategic town of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border. The Syrian army was backed by Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah.