Lebanon suicide bombings tied to Syrian conflict

The military support of Hezbollah, a powerful Lebanese Shiite group, for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who hails from the Alawite branch of Shiite Islam, has worsened existing sectarian and political tensions in Lebanon.

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Lebanese army soldiers patrol as a Red Cross member walks near the site where suicide bomb attacks took place in the Christian village of Qaa, in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon on Monday. Picture: REUTERS/HASSAN ABDALLAH

Lebanon also hosts more than 1.1-million Syrian refugees, an enormous strain for a country with a population of just 4-million.

The attacks came just hours after the Islamic State group on Sunday claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb that killed seven soldiers on Jordan’s border with Syria.

Monday’s deadly blasts struck Al-Qaa, a predominantly Christian village on the Syrian border. At least four suicide bombers hit the village before dawn, a military source said. “The first attacker knocked on one of the homes in the village, but after the resident became suspicious, he blew himself up,” the source said. He said three other suicide attackers detonated their own explosives as people began gathering to treat the wounded.

“Al-Qaa is the gateway to the rest of Lebanon, and here we stopped a plan for a much bigger explosion,” said Al-Qaa mayor Bashir Matar. He confirmed the second and third suicide attackers detonated their explosives as people gathered to treat the wounded. “We chased the fourth attacker and shot at him, and he blew himself up,” Matar said. George Kettaneh of the Lebanese Red Cross said the blast had left “at least eight killed including the suicide bombers”.

Following is a timeline of the fallout in Lebanon from the Syrian conflict:

June 17 2011: Deadly clashes erupt in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli between Sunni Muslim supporters of rebels who rose up against the Damascus regime and Alawite supporters of Assad.

Tripoli was the scene of frequent outbreaks of violence between Sunnis and Alawites in 2012 and 2013, before Lebanon deployed troops there in October 2014.

October 19 2012: Lebanese police intelligence chief Wissam al-Hassan, an opponent of the Syrian regime, is killed by a car bomb in Beirut along with seven other people. The attack is blamed on the Damascus regime by the Lebanese opposition and analysts.

December 2013: An aide to former premier Saad Hariri, Mohammad Chatah, hostile to the Syrian regime and to Hezbollah, is killed in car bomb attack in Beirut that costs seven lives.

April 30 2013: Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah acknowledges that his militia are fighting in Syria in support of Assad.

June 5 2013: The Syrian army backed by Hezbollah retakes from rebels the key town of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border. Hezbollah, adopting a crucial role in the conflict, has since sent thousands of fighters to help regime forces against rebels and jihadists.

August 23 2013: Twin car bombs against Sunni mosques in Tripoli kill 45 people.

November 19 2013: A double suicide attack claimed by an Al-Qaeda-linked group targets the Iranian embassy in Beirut, killing 25 people.

February 19 2014 : Two suicide car bombs target an Iranian cultural centre in Beirut, killing 11 people. It is the ninth attack in a Hezbollah stronghold since July 2013.

November 12 2015: Twin blasts claimed by the jihadist IS group kill at least 44 people on a busy shopping street in southern Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold.

May 13 2016: Hezbollah announces the death of its military commander in Syria, Mustafa Badreddine, in a blast near Damascus airport.

June 27 2016: A string of suicide bombings kills at least five people at Al-Qaa, a predominantly Christian village home to one of several border posts separating Lebanon and Syria.

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