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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.

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Writing on the kidnappings of the Syrians, who their abductors alleged were members of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), Nick Blanford explained the Lebanese context today:

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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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Members of the Meqdad clan, a powerful Shiite tribe from the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, announced today that the "military wing" of the family had abducted more than 20 Syrians in Lebanon whom they alleged were fighters with the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA). The Meqdads said that the abductions were in response to the kidnapping, allegedly by the FSA, of Hassan Selim Meqdad in Damascus at the beginning of the week. The FSA accused Hassan Meqdad of being a member of Lebanon's militant Shiite group Hezbollah, a strong supporter of the Assad regime. Hezbollah and the Meqdad family have denied the claims, with the latter saying that he was an employee of a Lebanese bank...

The Meqdad clan does not have a formal armed faction, although some members of the family do serve with Hezbollah and, like all Bekaa Valley clans, they are fierecly independent, live by strict tribal codes of honor and solidarity, and scorn the authority of the Lebanese state. It would be a rare Meqdad who does not own at least one gun.

Lebanon's war was a playground for proxy battles between regional and global powers, and Syria's war increasingly looks like that today. Further, the Syrian regime was a major player in Lebanon's war and occupied the country until 2005. Assad retains an extensive intelligence network and many allies in the country. If Lebanese politicians and warlords aren't careful, conflict could spread. The country is heavily armed and many of its gunmen are far, far away from formal state control.

Tensions were heightened today by reports that all or some of 11 Lebanese Shiites, kidnapped while traveling home after a pilgrimage to Iran by rebel supporters of the Free Syrian Army in May, were killed by Syrian government airstrikes on rebel positions. One Lebanese television station reported all 11 were killed while an affiliate later reported that just four of them were killed, in Aleppo's Azaz neighborhood.

This story was updated after first posting to include that Qatar has also asked citizens to leave Lebanon.

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