Car Bomb Hits Beirut Suburb Of Hezbollah, Killing At Least 5 And Wounding 50
On Thursday morning, a neighborhood in the south side of Beirut, populated with Shiite Hezbollah supporters, was shaken by a car bomb that killed five and wounded at least 50. The bomb, which ripped off the facade of a building, is part of a recent string of attacks that seem to be retaliation for the Lebanese militia and political party's support of the Syrian government, and the latest demonstration of Sunni-Shia tensions in their ongoing conflict.
Hezbollah security and Lebanese soldiers were trying to block off the site after the explosion. “Suddenly, the whole area went bright and we started running away,” said Ali Oleik, an accountant who works in a nearby office building. “I saw two bodies on the street, one of a woman and another of a man on a motorcycle who was totally deformed.”
The attack in the Heret Hreik neighborhood took place six days after a bombing deliberately killed a prominent member of Hezbollah's opposition party alongside eight others. In November, a bomb went off in the same part of the city that killed 23. Nobody has claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack yet, but an al Qaeda-affiliated leader said that attacks would continue in Lebanon until Iranian and Hezbollah forces stopped fighting alongside the Syrian government.
The continuing provocations between and violence from the Sunni and Shiite sects indicate that the violence from Syria is gradually spilling across the border into Lebanon, a country Al-Jazeera says is "long known for their resilience in the face of violence and war."
But the long string of attacks is exhausting for its residents. Some thirtysomethings who came back to rebuild the country in the relative peace after the civil war are thinking about leaving their homeland once again.
"I have given up hope. There is no longer a sense of unity among people," said 35-year-old Christina Khoury. "The once prevalent ideology of acceptance and co-existence has been replaced with one of intolerance and defeatism."
But there are rallying points for the residents, ones that come after some of the conflict's most tragic moments. Last Friday, a teenager named Mohammed Shaar was sitting with his friends and posing for a "selfie" downtown, after grabbing a Starbucks to mark the end of the semester. Seconds later, the bomb went off, and Shaar was pictured on the ground, blood pooling around his head from shrapnel wounds. (Warning: graphic image.)
Now, Shaar has become a symbol. Reported the Associated Press:
On Monday, hundreds of Shaar's fellow students marched to the Starco building, outside of which the bombing took place. They held signs saying "We are all Mohammed," waved the Lebanese flag and left flowers...
"Every one of us imagined ourselves in that place," activist Mohammed Estateyeh said outside the Khashakhgi mosque in the Sunni-dominated Beirut neighborhood of Qasqas after Shaar's burial. "The picture of Mohammed lying on the ground — and the picture just before the explosion — they were four guys who were just hanging out."
The car bomb that killed Shaar was one that echoed the first car bombs that sparked tensions between the two religious sects. In 2005, one killed the prime minister, Rafik Hariri, who had criticized Hezbollah. In the days following, more than a dozen others were killed who had spoken out against the Syrian government. Hezbollah and Syria were blamed for the killings, but neither has taken responsibility.
Tensions between the two groups were exacerbated once again when the uprising against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad began in 2005. As the divide has grown between the sects in Syria, with Shiites supporting Assad and Sunnis largely against him, it's continued to fan the flames in Lebanon as well — and with the majority of the deceased being civilians, many of whom don't subscribe to hardline sectarian policies, frustration has continued to grow.
"You know what sucks?" Shaar's friend Rahaf Jammal said in a eulogy. "It's the fact that he didn't finish the book I got him for his birthday. He didn't finish Harry Potter (movies) because he kept asking me to watch it with him. It's the fact he had his whole future planned out and he couldn't accomplish anything, because of this stupid, cruel and crappy country."