Lebanese dispute 'jihadist' label
TRIPOLI — The families of Lebanese men killed in Syria last week say their relatives were more interested in nice clothes and vacations than fighting a civil war. Yet Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime branded them foreign jihadists — and their deaths set off three days of new spillover violence.
The Syrian civil war continued on Wednesday as gunman fought in the streets of the Lebanese city of Tripoli. The fighting has killed six people and wounded nearly 60 since Monday, security officials said.
The bloodshed is a sign of just how vulnerable Lebanon is to getting sucked into the Syrian crisis. The countries share a porous border and a complex web of political and sectarian ties.
Among the 17 Lebanese men who turned up dead in Syria last week were Bilal al-Ghoul and his childhood friend, Malek Haj Deeb, both 20. Malek's older brother, Jihad, said the two men sympathized with the rebellion, but they were not fighters.
“Malek used to see the videos of dead Syrians and cry,” Jihad Haj Deeb told The Associated Press in Tripoli, as gunfire and explosions echoed near his home in the poor neighborhood of Mankoubeen. “He used to say, ‘May Bashar fall soon, God willing.' ” A giant poster hung in the entrance of the home, with photos of three of those killed in Syria and a sign that read: “Our dead are in heaven, and yours are in hell.”
Haj Deeb and Bilal al-Ghoul's older brother, Omar, said the men must have been kidnapped and handed over to Syrian authorities by a pro-Syrian Lebanese group. They said their brothers were not members of any political or Islamic group but were observant Muslims.
“My brother doesn't know how to hold a rifle,” Haj Deeb said.
The Lebanese men killed in Syria were Sunni Muslims, like the majority of rebels trying to overthrow Assad's regime. Assad and much of his inner circle belong to the Alawite sect, which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
In Brussels, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated concerns that “an increasingly desperate Assad regime might turn to chemical weapons” or lose control of them to militant groups.
She said NATO's decision on Tuesday to send Patriot missiles to Turkey's southern border with Syria sends a message that Ankara is backed by its allies. The missiles are intended only for defensive purposes, she said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted on Wednesday in a Turkish newspaper as saying that Syria has about 700 missiles, some of them long-range.
As Assad's regime wobbles, there are fears the crisis will keep spiraling outside its borders. Fighting has spilled over into Turkey, Jordan and Israel since the uprising began more than 20 months ago, but Lebanon is particularly susceptible.
Syria has powerful allies there, including the Iran-backed Hezbollah.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Jihadi John, slashing terrorist, is unmasked as Briton
- U.S. says China preps more ship, airfield stations
- Double bomb blasts kill 34 in Nigeria city
- Ukrainian sides pull heavy weapons from front in 11th-hour effort to comply with Minsk agreement
- Judge rejects Argentina’s role in cover-up of Iran’s involvement in blast at Jewish center
- Islamic State reign of terror unabated in Syria