People gather towards the site of a bombing in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (Source: Reuters)
In the southern suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon, a car bomb exploded in an apartment block, killing at least 14 so far and wounding at least 212 people. The blast occurred midday, between two apartment buildings. The southern suburbs of Beirut, heavily populated by Shia Muslims, is the primary stronghold of the militant movement and political party Hezbollah. The likely perpetrators of the blast are supporters of rebels in the neighboring Syrian Civil War. The blast, the second in about a month, indicates that the Syrian Civil War is spreading to its neighbor and former de-facto colony.
That Hezbollah's stronghold neighborhoods of Bir el-Abed and Rweiss, located in the Chiyah suburb to the immediate south of Beirut proper, were targeted is not accidental. Hezbollah has long been an ardent supporter of the Syrian government currently run by Bashar al-Assad, dating to its formation in the 1980s. Hezbollah served a key political role in enforcing Syria's occupation of Lebanon following the Lebanese Civil War, which lasted until the 2005 Cedar Revolution. Following the revolution, Hezbollah still remained allies to the Syrians, who provided logistical support for them during the south Lebanon conflict with Israel in 2006.
Hezbollah eventually responded in kind by providing fighters in Syria in the Assad regime's civil war against anti-Assad and Sunni Islamist forces. In late May, Hezbollah fighters provided key support in the Battle of al-Qusayr, which ended in a strategic rout by Assad forces. They have been active on other fronts as well. Consequently, Syrian rebels have sought to attack the presence of Hezbollah fighters both in Syria and in Lebanon.
By attacking the Hezbollah strongholds, the Syrian Civil War is beginning to spread into the messy political and cultural situation that is Lebanon. The Lebanese Civil War, which pitted Christians against Shia Muslims against Sunni Muslims against Druzes, ended only in a political treaty in 1990 in which the allocation of political power that was spread evenly between different cultural factions, and justified Syria's occupation of the country. Following the Cedar Revolution, the two primary political coalitions, the pro-Syrian March 8 Alliance and the anti-Syrian March 14 Alliance, have had uneasy relations. Recent sectarian fighting in Beirut and northern Lebanon, and another bombing last month alongside today's bombing, risk fraying the relations between the different factions, and returning the country to a state of warfare.