[Published here August 24, 2014]
After some initial success, negotiations for the release of over 30 Lebanese hostages held by the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra took a turn for the worse this weekend, when the Lebanese religious institution mediating the talks suspended their involvement. Citing challenges in securing the militants’ demands, the Muslim Scholars Committee said it would “make way for other intermediaries” to get involved. But with the militants reportedly refusing to work with anyone but the committee, the hostage negotiations may be in freefall.
Lebanese Armed Forces on the way to Arsal. Image by Reuters.
[Published here August 4, 2014]
Just before noon on August 2, in the Lebanese border town of Arsal, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) arrested Abu Ahmad al-Jumaa, a Syrian rebel commander who had recently pledged allegiance to the extremist Islamic State group. His arrest sparked a number of clashes in the largely Sunni Bekaa town between his supporters and Lebanese security forces stationed in the area. But Jumaa’s story and the significance of the August 2 events have repercussions beyond the small Lebanese town.
[Published here March 4, 2014]
A twenty year-old girl and a ten-year old boy were killed by Syrian government airstrikes last week. It would sound like any other day in Syria, except these strikes took place on the Lebanese side of the border, killing two Lebanese civilians and wounding several others. Porous borders are not new to Lebanon. The Lebanese and Syrian national borders have yet to be properly demarcated, and have never been fully secured. Migrant Syrian workers used to pour into Lebanon, while Lebanese looking for a quiet escape into old Damascus would flow the other way.