The fear of a widespread regional war has increased as two rockets hit Beirut, Lebanon on Sunday and the head of Hezbollah said they would continue fighting on the government’s side in Syria.
The rockets hit a Shi’ite Muslim district of the Lebanese capital just one day after at least 28 people were killed and 250 injured in Sunni-Alawite violence in the Lebanese city of Tripoli.
The rocket attack in Beirut is quite noteworthy since, as the Christian Science Monitor noted, it was the first of its kind since 1990.
The neighborhood hit by the attack – which left four to five wounded – has a significant number of supporters of the Shi’ite group Hezbollah, according to reports.
“There was no claim of responsibility for Sunday’s rocket attacks although suspicion has fallen on Sunni militants, possibly connected to armed rebel groups seeking to oust Mr. Assad from power,” the Christian Science Monitor reports.
“The attacks are aimed at creating security tensions and certain retaliations, given the timing of the incident,” said Najib Mikati, the Lebanese Prime Minister who tendered his resignation on March 22, 2013. “We call on all sides to act wisely to prevent those seeking strife to achieve their goals.”
The tensions in Lebanon are indeed running high as the ongoing conflict in Syria has further divided the Muslim population.
Sunni Muslims in Lebanon have mostly sided with the Sunni-dominated anti-Assad fighters while Shi’ite Muslims like those in Hezbollah have sided with Assad. However, some Sunnis have sided with Assad, including the assassinated Sunni cleric Mohamed Saeed al-Bouti.
The conflict in Syria itself has also been increasingly marred by brutal sectarian violence (despite the misleading claims to the contrary) and revenge killings, with a recent video showing a Syrian rebel commander biting into the heart of a Syrian soldier.
The rocket attack came just one day after Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, promised victory in Syria and vowed to fight on the side of the Assad government.
“We will continue to the end of the road. We accept this responsibility and will accept all sacrifices and expected consequences of this position,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech, according to Reuters. “We will be the ones who bring victory.”
“Until the Sunday morning strikes, Beirut had been largely immune from violence associated with the Syrian conflict,” the Los Angeles Times reports, further increasing the concerns surrounding a regional spillover.
The owner of a car dealership hit by a rocket, Abu Ali Qbeisi, told a local Lebanese TV station that he believed the rockets were a response to Nasrallah’s speech by the Syrian rebels.
“Just as Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah vowed victory, we will not be frightened by them,” Qbeisi said, according to the Daily Star. “Whatever they do, we are not afraid and long live Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah.”
The Lebanese army reportedly discovered two 107mm rocket launchers on a wooded hillside between Bsaba and Aitit villages located five miles to the south.
A third launcher was also reportedly discovered nearby but the rocket apparently misfired.
The security in southern Beirut has been significantly tightened over recent months. Individuals with Hezbollah have reportedly established checkpoints and patrolled the streets with bomb-sniffing dogs.
“Many residents fear that supporters of the Syrian opposition will mount a car bomb attack in the densely-populated district,” according to the Christian Science Monitor.
Lebanon is increasingly being drawn into the Syrian conflict with both Sunni opposition fighters and Hezbollah using the country as a gateway to Syria, according to USA Today.
Meanwhile, refugees have poured out of Syria into Lebanon in an attempt to flee the fighting.
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