GlobalPost: Much like downtown Beirut, the skyline in this city’s southern reaches, where the militant group Hezbollah is strong, is dotted with new apartment blocks built atop the ruins of past wars.
But with the conflict in Syria grinding next door, less than 40 miles to the east, south Beirut could again be at the epicenter of another armed conflict in Lebanon. The Western-backed leader of the Free Syrian Army, Gen. Selim Idriss, this week issued a deadline for Hezbollah to leave Syria or face attacks on its home turf.
In a televised speech Sunday, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the group would fight alongside the Syrian regime, one of its primary backers, “until the end.” Hours later, two rockets crashed into the outskirts of the group’s traditional powerbase in south Beirut, injuring several people.
Hezbollah — a powerful Lebanese Shia militant and political group — has thrown its weight behind Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, putting an already fragile Lebanon in the crosshairs of a spiraling regional conflict.
Hezbollah fighters are suffering losses in battles inside Syria, sectarian rhetoric is on the rise in Lebanon, and Israel has said it is willing to carry-out more strikes on Syrian soil to keep advanced weapons from reaching Hezbollah.
In a taped interview on Hezbollah’s television station Al-Manar, Assad said on Thursday that Russia had delivered the first shipment of the sophisticated S-300 surface-to-air missile system. Israel has previously said it would again strike targets in Syria if the regime acquires them.
“We are worried that the war in Syria is coming to Lebanon,” said Ibrahim, a resident of the Hezbollah stronghold, Dahiyeh, in Beirut’s sprawling southern reaches. Many of the young men that fill Hezbollah’s ranks come from this area.
“But more than that,” Ibrahim, a staunch Hezbollah supporter, said, “the young people around here are angry and want to fight.” [Continue reading…]