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Local Syrian Proxies, Hezbollah Stooges

1:24 PM, Aug 26, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
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Lebanese authorities have arrested two suspects affiliated with a pro-Syrian regime group in the bombing of two Sunni mosques in Tripoli on Friday. Forty-seven people were killed in the attack in the northern Lebanese city, likely retaliation for a bombing the previous week in the southern suburbs of Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold, that killed another 27.

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In other words, the sectarian civil war that has divided Syria for the last two and a half years is reverberating in Lebanon as well, with Lebanese allies and adversaries of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad at each other’s throats.

Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, essentially predicted Friday’s bombings in his weekly column for NOW Lebanon. Analyzing the statements of Hezbollah officials and allies, Badran argued a day before the bombings that Hezbollah had effectively “announced a retaliatory campaign against Sunni targets.” Friday’s operation was almost surely part of Hezbollah’s campaign—and so it seems was last week’s rocket attack on Israel.

Last Thursday four missiles were fired from Lebanon into northern Israel, with one intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system and the rest falling into open areas. In information circulated by The Israel Project in its afternoon Daily TIP newsletter, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman attributed the attacks to a “Global Jihad” organization, a vague term of art that typically refers to Sunni extremist organizations, including Al Qaeda affiliates.  Later, major U.S. press outlets reported that the Abdullah Azzam Brigade, a Salafist group with ties to Al Qaeda, had taken responsibility for the attack. In reality, that assessment was based on the tweet of a sheikh whose affiliation with the outfit is unclear.

The IDF clarified matters somewhat when it scrambled several jets early Friday morning for a “pin-point” strike inside Lebanon—as it turned out, the target was not a “Global Jihad” group but rather a Syrian regime proxy, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, that frequently works together with Hezbollah. In other words, Israel’s action suggests that it believes that the rocket attack on Israel was a Hezbollah operation. But because the attack from Lebanon was of limited scope and apparently had little to do with Israel, Jerusalem’s response was relatively mild, consisting, according to the Lebanese press, of one air-to-surface missile. Hopefully that was enough to signal to its northern neighbor’s warring sects and other factions—and perhaps Hezbollah, most of all—that Israel wishes not to be dragged into the middle of an intra-Lebanese issue.

To understand what happened last week on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border, it’s perhaps useful to stand back for a moment in order to see it in a broader regional context.

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