More than 50 people were injured Tuesday in a car bombing targeting Hezbollah’s stronghold in Beirut, representing the largest attack against the powerful Lebanese Shi’a Islamist militant organization in its near 30-year history. While no parties have stepped forward to claim responsibility for the explosion, the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star declared Israel had a hand in the incident. More significantly, discrepancies permeate the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) response to the bombing. While the group’s mainstream leadership denied any involvement in the affair, an FSA battalion issued a Facebook statement declaring it had conducted the attack and vowed to continue such operations until Hezbollah ceased its backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Lebanese security forces stand at the scene of a bombing near a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, July 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
While the claim remains unconfirmed, the attack in Lebanon provides yet another example of the spillover of sectarian violence from the ongoing Syrian civil war. The statement by Sunni rebels, that they “have decided to take the blood battle to the heart of Lebanon,” is certainly viewed with concern in a country that has already felt the instability resulting from decades of sectarian strife prior to March 2011. The growing influence of Salafist and other Islamist militias in Syria is creating a borderless conflict that threatens regional stability. Hezbollah’s role in branding Lebanon as a supporter of the Assad regime has indubitably intertwined the two nation’s affairs. Indeed, Lebanon’s foremost Sunni political party condemned Hezbollah for bringing Lebanon to the edge of “state collapse” in June of this year.
Thus, Hezbollah’s support of Assad continues to raise the stakes for the Lebanese people. Attacks have become more commonplace throughout the country, from outbreaks in Tripoli to clashes in Sidon. While no fatalities were reported in Tuesday’s bombing, it is nevertheless indicative of a civil war that continues to destabilize the wider region.