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Saudi Arabia and UAE urge citizens out of Lebanon after kidnappings

The growing spillover from the Syrian civil war, which included the kidnapping of over 30 Syrians in Lebanon today, prompted the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia to tell their citizens to leave Lebanon.

By Staff writer / August 15, 2012

Shi'ite masked gunmen from the Meqdad clan, gather at the Meqdad family's association headquarters in the southern suburbs in Beirut, on August 15.

Khalil Hassan/Reuters

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Both the regional power games over Syria's civil war and the repercussions for the people of that country and the region are heating up.

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Staff writer

Dan Murphy is a staff writer for the Monitor's international desk, focused on the Middle East. Murphy, who has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and more than a dozen other countries, writes and edits Backchannels. The focus? War and international relations, leaning toward things Middle East.

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Today, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar ordered their citizens out of Lebanon after 30 Syrians were kidnapped in the country in retaliation for a Lebanese Shiite's kidnapping by rebel fighters in Syria.

Saudi, Qatar and the UAE are Sunni monarchies and support the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, whose regime draws much of its support from the minority Alawite sect he belongs to. Hezbollah, the powerful Shiite political party and militia in Lebanon, supports Mr. Assad, as does its patron Iran. The Saudi Embassy in Beirut particularly noted the threat of kidnapping by Shiite groups in the country. 

Lebanon in the summer is a favorite destination for wealthy citizens of the Gulf monarchies, with its beaches and lax attitudes toward drinking alcohol and relations between the sexes. The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan ends in a few days, and the holidays that follow often provide a tourism boost, with Beirut bars and nightclubs packed with wealthy Gulf Arabs.

While a financial blow for businesses in Beirut isn't nice, the warnings from the two Gulf states are a reminder of how much tension there is in the region, and concern it could spark major problems in Lebanon, which has recovered remarkably from the 15-year civil war that ended in 1990, but still remains a nation split along confessional lines, with Shiites, Sunnis, Christians, and Druze all maintaining their own political fiefdoms and militias.

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