Twin Blasts rock southern Beirut
Twin suicide blasts ripped through Beirut last night in Hezbollah controlled Dahiyeh just north of Rafiq Hariri International Airport. Lebanese investigators are examining the attack which left 43 dead and roughly 239 wounded. The attacks were purportedly done as a response to Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian conflict. ISIS claims the responsibility for the attack; however, there are other suspected groups operating in Lebanon.
The two blasts targeted civilians on Ain al-Sikkeh street in Burj al-Barajneh just before 6pm on Thursday evening. The twin attacks were carried out 5 minutes apart from each other with suicide belts. According to the Lebanese military, a third suicide attacker wearing an explosive belt, was killed before he was able to detonate himself. The Lebanese media has claimed that two of the attackers were Palestinian while the other was Syrian, and that the arrest of possible fourth attacker occurred late Wednesday evening.
The attacks come after a series of threats emerged by extremist groups operating in both Syrian and Lebanon. The al Qaeda linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades issued a series of death threats against Lebanese security forces, Hezbollah and residents of Dahiyeh, or the southern suburbs of Beirut, in specific. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades has been operating against Hezbollah in the hopes that Hezbollah will withdraw from Syria. The groups is suspected to be linked to al Nusra in Syria, operates primarily from Northern Lebanon and Sidon, and calls for the Lebanese Sunni community to desert all security positions in the government. ISIS has also issued a number of threats against Hezbollah and is claiming yesterday’s blast. Yesterday’s released statement has not yet been verified by authorities as being an authentic ISIS statement, but the statement celebrates the deaths of the Shia inhabitants of Burj al Barajneh.
The Lebanese government has not charged any group with responsibility for the attack so far. Government interim head Tamam Salam called the attacks cowardly and criminal, while calling for national unity in the face of these attacks. Lebanon is observing a national day of mourning as schools and universities were closed today. Victims of the blast are undergoing treatment in surrounding hospitals.
The message behind previous attacks against Hezbollah controlled areas and the Iranian embassy bombing in Beirut in 2013 is the same. The extremist groups are saying, “Pull out of Syria.” Although it is unrealistic that Hezbollah will leave Syria any time soon, the attacks do reflect how vulnerable Lebanon is to further violence and chaos. Lebanon’s incredibly divergent political domestic makeup, porous borders, weak security services, flailing government, and lack of a real foreign policy toward Syria, will leave Lebanon exposed.