Lebanon: new car bomb attack in Hezbollah’s stronghold

Another car bomb exploded last Saturday in Hermel, Lebanon. The explosion, which killed at least four people, adds to the other six attacks that have taken place in Lebanon over the past few months, showing the mounting conflict between al-Qaeda groups (al-Nusra, ISIL) and Hezbollah. However, other countries could be involved.

8753038594_b63dde4f8f_oOn 17th January, a Grand Cherokee jeep exploded in HermelLebanon. It was part of a wider strategy: on Saturday, another attack occurred in Hermel, with similar procedures: a Grand Cherokee jeep used as an improvised explosive device (IED), a mechanism capable of producing a 534-meter damage area, according to the American Department of Defence. Even the group claiming responsibility was the same. It is the al-Qaeda affiliated movement al-Nusra, operating in Lebanon and Syria. Al-Nusra is one of the two most important Sunni terrorist groups that moved from Syria toward Lebanon. The other one is ISIL, Islamic State for Iraq and Levante. ISIL and al-Nusra jointly declared war on Hezbollah, blamed for the support provided to Assad‘s regime in Syria. Consequently, the main target remains Hezbollah’s strongholds such as Hermel, but something has changed in qaedist strategy.

When al-Qaeda was born in Saudi Arabia, they rapidly lost consensus by indiscriminately attacking both Shi’ite and Sunni citizens. In Lebanon, al-Nusra immediately asked Sunni people not to enter Shi’ite quarters. An intelligent choice, aiming to avoid damage to the Sunni community and contacts with Shi’ite rivals. They finally learnt one of the fundamental lessons about terrorist attacks: never hit your own supporters. Consequently, the complete isolation of the Sunni community could improve al-Qaeda’s power. After all, since the assassination of former president Rafiq Hariri, the Sunni government has not been capable of limiting Hezbollah’s control over southern regions. With no unitary guide, Sunni people could easily fall into al-Qaeda’s hands, as happened in Iraq, where ISIL is gaining power.

However, Hezbollah did not stop their action. Assad’s Syria remains one of the strongest allies for the Lebanese group. On the other hand, being worried by Assad’s weakness, Hezbollah seems to be actively looking for other supporters. Although in 2012 Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh openly attacked the Assad regime, on 28th December 2013 Guido Olimpio revealed on Il Corriere della Sera a secret agreement concluded between Hamas and Hezbollah in order to ensure funds to the Palestinian party and terrorist movement. A dangerous alliance, now relying on another important asset: Assad’s weaponry. As reported by J. Dana Stuster on Foreign Policy, Syrian high-tech weapons crossed the border, and are now under Hezbollah’s control. Therefore, they could lay their hands on Yakhont anti-cruise missiles, rockets with a 180-mile range, flying at Mach 2 just over the sea, evading radar. An important leap, even considering Iran‘s sale of Zelzal II missiles (range: 100 km).

In conclusion, al-Qaeda’s intervention could deeply influence balances in Lebanon; it has already happened. According to what Lorenzo Trombetta wrote (quoted by Luca Troiano), these facts may not necessarily escalate up to an open conflict. However, they will cause life conditions to deteriorate in a country which has been devastated by two wars (in 1982 and 2006). There is no defense for this.

Photo: Times Asi/Flickr

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