Civil War in Syria Spills over into Lebanon
In May 2013, Syria's civil war spilled into Lebanon, mainly due to Hezbollah's increased involvement. On May 25, 2013, Hezbollah and Syrian forces bombed the rebel-controlled town of Al-Qusayr in the Syrian province of Homs. Dozens were killed. The following day, multiple rockets hit Beirut, mainly striking Shiite suburbs, also strongholds of Hezbollah. The ban against arming the Syrian rebels was lifted by the European Union on May 27, 2013.
Fighting also erupted in Tripoli in late May 2013. The battles occurred between Sunnis and Alawites, allies of Hezbollah. The fighting between the two militias was so intense that schools and businesses in Tripoli were closed for a week. At least 24 people were killed. Sectarian violence broke out again in June when an armed, extremist Sunni group led by Sheikh Ahmed Assir attacked an army checkpoint in Sidon. Government troops, backed by Hezbollah, retaliated. About 35 people were killed in the fighting.
On May 31, 2013, Parliament voted to delay elections in Lebanon for at least 17 months, citing indecision over a new electoral law and the deteriorating security in the country as a result of the Syrian crisis spreading into Lebanon. Parliamentary elections were supposed to take place on June 16, 2013. It was the first time an election had been delayed since Lebanon's civil war ended in 1990. A national unity government was formed in Feb. 2014, ending 10 months of deadlock caused by a power struggle between blocks led by Hezbollah and Sunnis. Tammam Salam took office as prime minister. He cited improving security and dealing with Syrian refugees as his top priorities.
The European Union declared the military wing of Hezbollah a terrorist organization in July 2013. The move makes it illegal for Europeans to send money or arms to Hezbollah and freezes the assets held in European institutions by the group's members. The U.S. has long considered Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
A double suicide bombing outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut killed at least 23 people in November 2013. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an affiliate of Al Qaeda, takes responsibility for the attack, which is seen as retribution for Iran's support of Hezbollah and the Syrian government.
The former Lebanese finance minister and U.S. ambassador, Muhammad Shatah, was killed by a car bomb, along with seven others in Beirut in December 2013. Shatah was a leading Sunni and his death, coupled with the Syrian crisis, has served to exacerbate existing tensions within Lebanon's religous communities; about a third of the population are Sunni Muslim, a third Shia, and a third Christian.
By April 2014, more than 1 million Syrian refugees had entered Lebanon, exacting an economic burden on the country of 4 million.
On Jan. 18, 2015, one Iranian general and six Hezbollah fighters were killed during an Israeli air strike on the Syrian section of Golan Heights. After the attack, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened retaliation. Ten days later Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles into an Israeli-occupied area along the Lebanon border, killing two Israeli soldiers. Israeli forces responded with ground and air strikes on several villages in southern Lebanon. The exchange was the worst fighting between Hezbollah and Israel since their 2006 month long war. Despite the attacks, both sides indicated that they were not interested in engaging in an ongoing conflict.
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