Lebanon Aftermath

Eight suicide bombers launched two waves of attacks on the Christian town of Al Qaa in northeastern Lebanon on June 27th killing at least five people and raising fears that violence from the civil war in neighboring Syria will further destabilize Lebanon, its fragile neighbor.

Lebanon has so far managed to avoid large-scale violence, but the country has extensive political and sectarian ties with Syria and has struggled to insulate itself from the civil war. Some Lebanese have joined the fight across the border. Hezbollah, the powerful Shiite militia, is backing President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, and some Sunni Muslims have joined the rebels seeking to topple him.

The blasts inflamed tempers in a country drowning in refugees. Some politicians have gone on television to call for the refugees to be sent home or to be detained in camps. The anger in Al Qaa, too, has focused on the Syrians. The attacks were a new, terrifying spillover from the civil war in neighboring Syria, and they fractured the tenuous coexistence that had developed in Al Qaa and beyond between Lebanese residents and the Syrians who have flooded their towns seeking refuge from the violence at home.

The scale of the refugee crisis in Lebanon would make Western leaders cringe. The country has added 1.5 million Syrians to a population of only 4.5 million, giving Lebanon the world’s highest refugee count per capita. The price for some refugees in Al Qaa was swift. Residents told them that they had 72 hours to get out, and no Syrians appeared on the streets on Wednesday. A group of shacks where refugees had lived on the edge of town stood empty, the locks on their doors broken and chickens left behind pecking at the dust. A day later, a group of local men looking for a suspicious person detained a group of Syrians including her husband, Abdul-Moti. They pulled the refugees’ shirts over their heads, bound their hands and beat their heads and chests.