Lebanon, the land of cedars, is seething. An incident on Wednesday evening makes the heated atmosphere clear.
A Hezbollah munitions truck overturned while passing through the town of Kahaleh, a stronghold of the Christian political party and former militia known as the “Lebanese Forces.” Lebanese Christians surrounded the truck and confronted the Hezbollah men. According to media reports, at least one person died on both sides.
So apparently in Lebanon tonight a truck carrying Hezbollah equipment or possibly captagon, flipped over and residents nearby who stopped to look were shot by Hezbollah likely to prevent them from seeing what was inside. At least one was killed
— Emily Schrader – אמילי שריידר امیلی شریدر (@emilykschrader) August 9, 2023
The incident immediately aroused protests from the Christian population against Shiite influence in Lebanon. Christian politicians in Lebanon questioned why the international community is so concerned about the Israeli “occupation,” but does not see Iran’s interference in Lebanon as a de facto occupation given the overriding influence of its proxy Hezbollah.
In practice, Lebanon is occupied by the Shiites. The country is mired in crisis, which was exacerbated three years ago with the devastating explosion at the port of Beirut. A complicated system prevails in the country, which is supported by institutionalized sectarianism.
The leader of the Christian Kata’ib party warned yesterday that Lebanon had “reached the point of no return” after Christian villagers clashed with Hezbollah members in a village south of Beirut the day before.
Exchanges of fire between Christians and Shiites is nothing new in Lebanon. The social networks in Lebanon report more about this than the official media. “As of today, our fight against Hezbollah is an existential struggle, not just a political one,” Lebanese politician Samy Gemayel warned. “We know where that has led us in the past,” he added, recalling the Lebanese civil war.
From 1975 to 1990, a civil war raged in Lebanon between a number of Christian, Shia, Sunni and Palestinian militias and terrorist groups. At the time, the Christian Kata’ib party was part of the Lebanese armed forces targeting the Shia and Palestinian PLO. It played a central role in the war.
In June 1982, Israel was forced to go to war in Lebanon due to Katyusha missile attacks on the Galilee. The goal: to defeat Yasser Arafat’s PLO terrorists (Sunnis), who were responsible, among other things, for the civil war in the country.
Israel’s army stayed in southern Lebanon for 18 years, many things went wrong and the numerous ethnic groups made everything even more complicated. My mandatory military service in the IDF took place during this time. It was the Israeli forces that ultimately drove the PLO terrorists and Arafat out of the country.
ירי כבד באל-כחאלה היום בזמן הלוויה של פאדי בג’אני. זה עוד לא מה שסמי ג’ומייל הבטיח אבל זה צעד קדימה pic.twitter.com/MQIPtc3clK
— 🇮🇱 אלי כרמלי 🇱🇧 (@elicarmeli11) August 11, 2023
Tweet: Funeral of Fadi Bejjani who was killed by Hezbollah gunfire in the truck incident.
“What if the truck contained explosives and the incident resulted in a massive explosion killing hundreds of people? We are not ready to co-exist with an armed militia in Lebanon, and practical steps, opposition meetings and decisions will follow,” Gemayel stressed to the media, commemorating the mega-explosion at the Shiite arms cache in Beirut in August 2020.
The Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPB) led by Gebran Bassil also warned that the Kahaleh incident was a warning sign of the looming danger of a failing state and a convulsing society. For years, the Christian FPB was allied with the Shia Hezbollah, but this has changed dramatically in recent years because of the political, economic and social crisis in Lebanon. The FPB moved away from the Shia and joined a group of Christian parties supporting a presidential candidate opposed to the Hezbollah-backed candidate. It is not the first time that Hezbollah has accused Lebanese Christians of helping Israel.
Politicians and journalists close to Hezbollah have accused Christians in Kahaleh of helping the IDF, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Lebanese reporter Ali Shoeib accused the village’s Christian residents of deliberately attacking the truck to reveal that it was carrying ammunition and thereby expose Hezbollah.
Shoeib also linked the incident to Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s recent visit to the Lebanese border. Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Elosh responded to Galant’s threat, explaining how bad life is in Lebanon: “If we look at Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, there is no need for Israeli intervention in Lebanon to take the country back to the Stone Age. We’re in a stone age.”
Lebanese TV channel Al-Mayadeen, meanwhile, reported that “an armed group linked to a well-known political party was behind the clashes between Shia and Christians in Kahaleh.” Christian groups are also accused of fueling a new civil war in Lebanon. Al-Manar said that “Hezbollah is turning the matter over to the Lebanese army to avoid escalation, even though a martyr fell by treacherous bullets (Christian bullets) that crossed a line of escalation.”
Lebanon is home to approximately 5 million inhabitants, 18 religious communities are recognized by the state, most of which are Christians, Muslim Sunnis or Shiites. The Maronites are the largest Christian group. Today, the Christian population in Lebanon is less than 40 percent of the total population. About a hundred years ago, Christians were still the majority in Lebanon because Lebanon was a country of refuge for Christians from other Middle Eastern Arab states. Especially after the Islamic conquest, Christians migrated to Lebanon in the 7th century.
The number of Shiites in the country is estimated at 1.7 million. Of these, 800,000 live in the south of the capital Beirut. According to Lebanese sources, the Sunnis and Shiites each account for 27 percent. Druze make up about 6 percent of the population.
Lebanese Christians in particular have been migrating from Lebanon for decades. It is estimated that there are now 14 million Lebanese or their descendants living abroad, mostly Christians (source: Marina Sarruf). In Brazil, for example, there are up to 7 million Lebanese residents, most of them Christians. This means that today there are more Lebanese living in Brazil than north of Israel.
Arab Christians are fleeing the Middle East in general because of their Muslim neighbors – a fact evident throughout the Arab countries in Israel’s vicinity. However, only when Palestinian Christians flee the Palestinian territories do you hear about it, because then the media can blame Israel, even if falsely.
Christian politician Charles Jabbour said on Lebanese TV that “Hezbollah no longer has a friendly environment in any region of Lebanon. Neither among the Druze, nor among the Sunnis, nor among the Christians.” The Lebanese Christians can no longer tolerate the Shiites and Hezbollah. They say this publicly today on social networks and media, because from their point of view Lebanon is under Iranian occupation. This explains, among other things, why Hezbollah keeps challenging Israel on its northern border. The Shiites want to shift all the attention to Israel in order to reduce the internal political conflict with the country’s Christians. But the Christians in Lebanon understand that their problem is not Israel, but rather the Shia, Hezbollah and Iran.
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