Clashes erupted in Beirut Wednesday night between Palestinians and members of the Amal Movement, MTV television station reported. The clashes took place in the Farhat neighborhood near the Cité Sportive stadium, during which two hand grenades were used.
Without proper contextualization, this incident could be seen as just another insignificant fight between two armed groups. But it happened shortly after Jabhet al-Nusra declared the beginning of its operations against Hezbollah in Beirut and the Beqaa. Meanwhile, various sources reported that Hezbollah has asked Hamas to leave Dahiyeh (the southern suburbs of Beirut) after it became known that Hamas has been fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army in Qusayr.
Hamas' alliance with Hezbollah and the Assad regime in Damascus has always given Hezbollah a certain control over the Palestinian camps in Lebanon – but things are drastically different now. Hamas is no longer an ally of Assad or Hezbollah, the organization has shifted alliances and Hamas is now Qatar's best friend and beneficiary.
Of course, that Hamas is now actually fighting Hezbollah in Syria is hardly surprising news. Sources close to Hezbollah in Lebanon report that most of Hezbollah’s casualties in Qusayr occur by mines which Hezbollah and Hamas used against Israeli forces – both groups were trained by the same army after all. The same sources also mentioned that cluster mines are behind most of Hezbollah’s losses.
Although Hamas’ leadership in Lebanon officially denied being asked to leave the southern suburbs by Hezbollah, many doubt this actually occurred. Hamas did not and will never declare its military involvement in Syria, as the organization has always been good at playing both sides carefully. Hamas never clearly and officially cut ties with Iran, yet its leadership's new ties to Qatar are a poorly-kept secret.
After Khaled Meshaal and other Hamas officials were forced to flee the group’s headquarters in Syria, Meshaal has since stationed himself in Qatar, making the small Gulf city-state Hamas' new headquarters. Moreover, in October 2012 Qatar pledged to give Hamas $400 million USD in support, which constitutes a critical funding stream that will supplement major subsidies from Iran.
Hamas' loyalty is now with Qatar, and the Gulf state is clearly supporting and funding Syrian rebels, particularly Islamist ones. It is only normal that Hamas, being the best trained military faction in the region besides Hezbollah, will be asked to join the rebels in Syria.
But this also means that Hezbollah is facing a new danger in Lebanon, and Wednesday night's news shows that Palestinian camps could again be used to partake in a conflict on Lebanese soil, this time against Hezbollah.
So here we have two supposedly resistance groups fighting each other, politically and most probably militarily. Their fight in Syria will soon move into Lebanon, and when Jabhat al-Nusra decides to launch its attack against Hezbollah in Lebanon, it will come as no surprise if Hamas and other Islamist groups in the Palestinian camps carry it out.
Now that the Lebanese parliament has decided to extend its term for at least 15 months, a new government will probably not be formed anytime soon unless PM-designate Tammam Salam submits to Hezbollah's demand that it maintains control over government and state institutions. This means that Hezbollah is not only still a part of the Lebanese state, it has also managed to maintain its control over Lebanon's institutions.
Therefore, all of Lebanon's institutions and sectors will be a target to whoever wants to attack or pressure Hezbollah.
When Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah officially declared his organization’s military involvement in Syria, inviting his opponents to fight him there, Nasrallah’s message was that Lebanon as a state does not matter and it only exists to serve Hezbollah and Iran's interests. Hence, Lebanon is forced to join Hezbollah in its battle in Syria.
Hezbollah is determined to win the Qusayr battle no matter the consequences, and they are now sending better-equipped and trained troops to Qusayr. Nasrallah has no choice in Qusayr but victory, in order to justify the huge number of casualties coming from Syria every day. Hezbollah's losses in Qusayr are damaging its reputation of invincibility, and winning (like the “divine” victory of 2006) has now become simply non-negotiable.
However, what does victory mean at this point? Winning the battle in Qusayr may mean losing a bigger war. Even if Hezbollah manages to take over Qusayr, they do not have the power or ability to hold it. Eventually, Hezbollah will be chased back into Lebanon. There are no borders or functioning state institutions to stop their return.
But, Hezbollah has set a dangerous new precedent with its campaigns into Syria by dragging Lebanon into the neighboring conflict. According to Hezbollah’s ideological and military training – losses, no matter how big, are irrelevant if they result in victory. This mentality is sure to prolong the conflict, something Hezbollah strives on.
This time, however, is different. Hezbollah has positioned itself, through a calculated sectarian approach, as the enemy of all Sunni Islamists who are taking over most of the region. No matter how strong they are or how costly and long the conflict will drag on, Hezbollah is determined to plow ahead. Yet today they are facing all the Sunnis in the region including Hamas, and Hezbollah will eventually lose the bigger battle as a result.
As a small, sectarian state, Lebanon will be the biggest loser in this broader regional divide. Therefore, the only choice left for Lebanon is to keep Hezbollah out of any state institution. They cannot be part of the government or parliament anymore. Hezbollah today is an occupying force in Syria, and if they remain in control of Lebanon's institutions, it means that Lebanon will be regarded as an occupying state. Lebanon must therefore change by exercising its real independence.
Hanin Ghaddar is the Managing Editor of NOW. She tweets @haningdr