Syrian violence spills over border into Lebanon
Shootings and kidnappings increase along the Syrian-Lebanese border, as Lebanese supporters of Syrian government and Syrian opposition settle scores.
Abboudiyah, North Lebanon
A recent escalation in cross-border shootings and tit-for-tat kidnappings along Lebanon’s northern frontier with Syria is fueling concerns that the yearlong violence in Syria is spilling into Lebanon.Skip to next paragraph
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In the past week alone, several people, including an old woman, have been shot dead allegedly by Syrian soldiers firing into Lebanon; clashes have resumed between rival factions in Lebanon’s perennially tense second-largest city, Tripoli, leaving four people dead; and some 40 Sunni Syrians have been kidnapped in reprisal for the abduction of three Lebanese Shiites.
The Lebanese government, which is backed by the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has adopted a policy of disassociation with the crisis in neighboring Syria, mindful that Lebanon is deeply polarized between supporters and opponents of the Assad regime. But Sunni residents of villages strung along the northern border with Syria accuse the Lebanese government and security services of either failing to block Syrian transgressions or actively colluding with the Syrian regime in some of the abductions.
“Any person who is wanted by the Syrians is easily picked up because the Lebanese authorities are working with the Syrian security,” says Ali, a 22 year-old resident of the border village of Abboudiyah. Like others interviewed here, Ali requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.
Last Thursday evening, Mahmoud Ibrahim, a father of four children, was kidnapped from Abboudiyah allegedly by four members of the pro-Syrian regime Shabiha militia and taken across the border into Syria.
According to residents and eyewitnesses, Mr. Ibrahim had been contacted by some Syrian friends who had asked him to meet them at the official border crossing at the northern end of the village. When he arrived beside the customs post, four Shabiha militiamen entered Lebanese territory and used an electric stun gun to subdue Ibrahim before dragging him back across the border.
The angry residents of Abboudiyah, almost all of them supporters of the Syrian opposition, temporarily blockaded the international road leading to Syria.
“The Lebanese authorities asked us to give them four days to secure Mahmoud’s release,” says a close relative of Ibrahim's. “We are building our hopes on that. Otherwise, we will cut the international road and no one will come in or out of Syria. Then we will think of the next step.”
Border watched more closely
The international highway is little more than a narrow, dusty potholed lane passing through Abboudiyah, which sits on the southern bank of the Kabir River, the frontier between Lebanon and Syria. The road is choked with parked trucks waiting to cross into Syria. The Syrian customs officers are being more thorough than usual to ensure that none of the vehicles entering Syria are carrying weapons and ammunition for the armed opposition.