syria lebanon civil war

This weekend's blast at an army checkpoint on the outskirts of Hermel, claimed by Sunni jihadists, is just the latest in a series of vehicle-borne suicide attacks aimed at largely Shi'a areas in Lebanon.

Last month a suicide bomber got through to Hermel and killed four people. And things could have been even worse. Two weeks ago a 100kg car bomb was defused in Beirut and a facilitator for the al Qaida-affiliated Abdullah Azam Brigade was arrested. A few days later a 240kg car bomb was defused in the Bekaa Valley.

Beirut's heavily Shi'a southern suburbs (an area known as the dahiyya) has also come in for regular attention from Sunni jihadists who want to hit Hizbullah and Iranian targets in retaliation for their support of President Assad's regime in Syria.  Last year the Iranian embassy was targeted, killing 22 people, and a few days ago the Iranian cultural centre was the target.

Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has been typically combative in response. In a widely circulated speech last week, he vowed to 'stay the course' in Syria, arguing that the fight was part of a broader regional security threat and would have occurred sooner or later. Anecdotal evidence is that the campaign of bombings has hardened the resolve of the Lebanese Shi'a community that the Sunni jihadist threat from Syria is very real, and therefore the need to fight them 'over there' before they come to Lebanon is increasingly apparent. A porous border and weak central government simply adds to Lebanon's problems. 

One of the tragic ironies of the latest Sunni bombing against Lebanese Shi'a targets is that one of the two soldiers killed in the blast was First Lieutenant Elias Khoury from Zahle, his name and town both marking him as Christian.

Photo by Flickr user yeowatzup.