Lebanon. About 6,000 Syrian soldiers were withdrawn from
dozens of military bases in and around Beirut in June. Some
of them left the country completely, others were stationed
in the Beka Valley or along the road between Beirut and
Damascus. The withdrawal was considered to be a remission
for the Christian Lebanese who increasingly criticized the
Syrian presence in the country. However, more than 20,000
Syrian soldiers remained in Lebanon, many of them in Beirut.
In early August, police arrested 250 Maronite students
and politicians who were accused of "damaging their
relations with a brotherland", i.e. Syria, and for insulting
President Emile Lahoud. Most were released within a few
weeks, but some had to serve shorter prison sentences.
Countryaah, violent incidents occasionally occurred during the year
at the border between Lebanon and Israel. In April, June-July and
October, Israeli fighter aircraft attacked Syrian positions
in eastern Beka Valley. Israel said the attacks had been
caused by guerrilla attacks against Israeli soldiers on a
part of the Hermon Mountains occupied by Israel but which
Syria and Lebanon regard as Lebanese land and which the UN
believes belong to Syria.
Despite Lebanese protests, UN Security Council extended
UN UNIL's (The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon)
mandate until January 2002. Lebanon does not believe that the UN
has done enough to ensure that Israel completely leaves
Lebanese leaders condemned the terrorist attacks in the
United States on September 11, but failed to heed the US
call to freeze Hizbullah's financial assets.
In August, Lebanon's central government debt was at 170% of
GDP, and interest rates alone amounted to 45% of the central
government budget. More than a quarter of Lebanese were
estimated to live below the poverty line. The explanation
was the stalled peace process in the Middle East that made
investments fail. In addition, some Lebanese who had
previously worked in Israel had lost their jobs.
The Lebanese government collapsed in January 2011 when 10
ministers resigned in protest of Prime Minister Hariri's
resignation from an agreement reached in December 2010 that
Lebanon should distance itself from the UN Lebanon tribunal.
The tribunal worked to make Hezbollah responsible for the
murder of Hariri's father in 2005. An agreement was reached
in December for the government to distance itself from the
tribunal, but the United States intervened and forced Hariri
to break the agreement because the superpower along with
Israel had a agenda to make Hezbollah responsible - in the
same way that Israel and the United States in 2005 spread
the claim that it was Syria behind the assassination.
The collapse of the government threw Lebanon into renewed
political crisis and the prime minister deported the army to
patrol in Beirut. Foreign countries had once again
interfered with and destroyed the fragile political
equilibrium in the country.
In June, she succeeded in forming a new government with
Najib Mikati as prime minister. Prior to this had been a
complicated government formation that had stretched since
January, which both the EU and the US had sought to impede
because it gave Hezbollah a prominent role.
On June 30, the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL)
issued arrest warrants against 4 senior members of Hezbollah
accused of the 2005 murder of Hariri. The arrest warrant was
rejected by the Lebanese authorities. In mid-2010, a major
Israeli spy network was unveiled in Lebanon. 70 Lebanese
were arrested and some managed to escape to Israel. One of
the most prominent spies was Charbel Qazzi, senior manager
of the mobile phone company Alfa. He had worked for Mossad
for 15 years and had installed Israeli monitoring equipment
and computer programs in Alfa. Israeli espionage activities
in the mobile phone companies made no Lebanese believe in
the STL, which based its charges against the 4 Hezbollah
members on clues in the form of cellphone location of the
accused during the Hariri murder.
After Israel banned the marking of Nakba in 2011 - the
day of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Israel in 1948
- the Palestinians demonstrated instead at the borders of
Israel. So, too, at the Lebanon-Israel border, where the
Israeli military opened fire on the unarmed protesters. 7
Palestinian refugees were killed and 111 injured.
In mid-2011, the civil war in Syria swept across the
border with Lebanon. Partly in the form of a growing stream
of refugees. Partly in the form of a flare-up of the
conflicts between the ethnic and religious groups in the
country that either supported the Assad regime or the
rebels. In the north of Lebanon, many Allawites live - the
same sect on which the Assad family has historically based
its power in Syria. At the same time, the northern part
houses Salafists, al-Qaeda supporters and other deeply
conservative Sunni groups. In June 2011, in Tripoli, armed
fighting between Alawaites and Salafists came. Before the
Lebanese army had brought the conflict under control, 7 had
been killed and 59 wounded. From the beginning of 2012,
however, the conflict flared again as intensification of the
fighting in Syria and the use of Lebanon as a transit
country for weapons to the Syrian rebels.