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Time

Syria’s War Takes Hold of Lebanon
Through Bombings and Kidnappings

Dahiyeh blast damage. (AFP)

The frequently voiced fear that the Syrian crisis could engulf the region is unlikely to be realized in one earth-shattering event. Instead it will leak across borders, a contact corrosion that, once established, will likely prove impossible to eradicate. In neighboring Lebanon, it has already materialized in the form of car bombs. On Thursday evening an explosion in the Shi‘ite-dominated suburbs south of Beirut killed 20 and wounded scores. It was the second such attack following a similar bombing in July, both aimed at the powerful Shi‘ite organization Hizballah, which has actively backed the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

 

But the Syrian conflict has also led in Lebanon to a spate of politically motivated kidnappings that have exposed the fragility and incompetence of the state security apparatus. The most recent kidnapping, in which two Turkish Airlines pilots were taken at gunpoint from a shuttle bus just one kilometer from the airport — within sight of an army checkpoint — is the first known case of an international abduction in Beirut since the civil war that ended nearly a quarter-century ago. A terrorism tactic to achieve political gains, kidnappings were once a hallmark of that war, and their resumption now casts a shadow over Lebanon’s ability to shield itself from Syrian fallout. The kidnapping threatens Lebanese-Turkish relations and could have a far-reaching impact, from a crumbling economy to a reduction in the national power supply. Offshore electricity barges leased from Turkey provide 20% of Lebanon’s needs. Tourism, worth $8 billion in 2010, only brought in $4 billion last year because of regional insecurity. The Turkish kidnapping, says caretaker Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud, is likely to be the “last nail in the coffin” for a sector that provides one-fifth of Lebanon’s GDP.

 

(Time/Aryn Baker)


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Flames rise in Beirut's Dahiyeh following Thursday's car bomb. (AFP)

Tourism, worth $8 billion in 2010, only brought in $4 billion last year because of regional insecurity.