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Fighting in Syria Is Inching Lebanon Closer to Civil War

Bombings push Lebanon to its breaking point.

av Robert King
2014 01 23, 9:00am

Video and photos by the author

In Switzerland Wednesday, delegates from more than 40 countries gathered at the Geneva II conference to discuss the extraordinarily theoretical possibility of peace in Syria. Meanwhile, more than 2,400 kilometres away, the Syrian conflict continued to bleed over the border into Lebanon, further destabilising the region.

In the past few weeks, the Al Nusra Front in Lebanon, believed to be an offshoot of the jihadi group Al Nusra Front fighting in Syria, has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings that have led many people in Lebanon to fear another civil war.

Even before the latest outbreaks of violence escalated tensions, the country was already in a precarious position due to decades of civil strife. Hezbollah’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad has inflamed the already tenuous relations between Lebanon’s Sunnis and Shiites. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the streets of Tripoli, where seemingly endless cycles of revenge shootings occur on a daily basis.

Residents have grown so assustomed to the daily barrage of bullets that Sheik Isbilal Radwan Al Masri, a Sunni leader in Tripoli, casually answered interview questions before growing fed up with the noise, picking up a nearby rifle and firing off a few shots of his own. He then returned to finish the interview

Al Masri said he's concerned about the large numbers of Syrians who have sought refuge in Lebanon. Estimates say there could already be 1.5 million in the country, which is more than one-fourth of the Lebanese population. Resources are already depleted, and the influx of refugees shows no signs of ebbing.

The Syrian refugees with whom VICE News spoke did not care to discuss the spread of the war. Rather, they wanted to discuss their desperation and hardships, especially those of their children. Many expressed disappointment with the international community. “Our country has been destroyed, [my children] don’t have a future, and I cry for them because they’re destroyed,” said a Syrian refugee who gave her name as Ahmed. “We don’t have anything to hold on to that gives us hope, and in the end the children have to eat grass."

"The whole world is silent. Why?”

Many refugees also decried the lack of assistance and negative treatment they’ve received in Lebanon. Fady, a young father from Al Qusayr living in a camp in the city of Ersal, said that animals have been receiving better treatment then people.

“Being a refugee means you have no value – anyone on the street could hit or kill you and keep walking and you’re not even recognized by anyone,” he told us. “You’re nothing and have nothing. You have no rights.”

Tagged:
Syria
civil war
refugees
Lebanon
Vice Blog
tripoli
Bashar Assad
geneva II