Garrett Nada

 

Chronology 2011

In January 2011, the Shiite movement Hezbollah and its allies pulled out of Lebanon’s unity government headed by Saad al Hariri, a pro-Western Sunni. As a result, Najib Mikati, a Sunni backed by Hezbollah, was appointed prime minister. The power play further exposed the inefficiency of the sectarian political system, codified after the 1975-1990 civil war in the Taif Agreement. The constitution requires the prime minister to be a Sunni Muslim, the president a Maronite Christian and the parliamentary speaker a Shiite Muslim.

Inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, hundreds of Lebanese took to the streets of Beirut on Feb. 27, 2011 to protest the country’s sectarian political system and call for a downfall of the “sectarian regime”. Organizers handed out leaflets demanding a “secular, civil, democratic, socially just and equal state” along with an increase in the minimum wage and lower prices for basic goods. Thousands came out again on March 6. But protests began to wane by mid-2011.

The other large protests in 2011 were against Hezbollah. In March, tens of thousands of Hariri’s supporters rallied to demand that the army take control of Hezbollah’s arsenal. In June, Salafi Sheikh Ahmad Assir made a media splash by staging a month-long sit-in on Sidon’s eastern highway. He and his followers also demanded the disarming of the Shiite political party and militia.

As the Syrian conflict worsened, more and more refugees poured in Lebanon. The first signs of spillover violence from Syria appeared in June after supporters of the uprising there held a demonstration in Tripoli. At least six were killed in clashes between Sunni and Alawite gunmen in Lebanon’s second-largest city.

Jan. 12: Hezbollah and its political allies withdraw from Lebanon’s cabinet, toppling the Western-backed Saad Hariri government. Hezbollah had previously warned that it would act if the government would not reject a U.N.-backed tribunal into the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. But the pullout unexpectedly comes before the tribunal announced its findings. 

Jan. 25: President Michel Suleiman appointed Najib Mikati, a Sunni backed by Hezbollah, as prime minister after he wins the nomination of 68 out of 128 lawmakers. Sunni supporters of Saad Hariri demonstrated against Hezbollah’s power play for two days.

Feb. 27: Hundreds of Lebanese protested against the country’s sectarian political system and call for the downfall of the “sectarian regime.” In Beirut, organizers handed out leaflets demanding a “secular, civil, democratic, socially just and equal state” along with an increase in the minimum wage and lower prices for basic goods.

March 6: Thousands of demonstrators marched from Beirut’s Daoura area to the electricity ministry and called for the downfall of the sectarian political system. The electricity ministry had been unable to provide 24-hour power to residents.

March 13: Tens of thousands of supporters of former Prime Minister Saad al Hariri rallied in Beirut to demand that the state take control of Hezbollah’s weapons.

June: Salafi Sheikh Ahmad Assir staged a sit-in on Sidon’s eastern highway, disrupting traffic and local business. The sheikh vowed not to move until “Hezbollah is disarmed or the last drop of blood of our last child is spilled.” A month later, Prime Minister Mikati agreed to review the national defense strategy and take steps to oversee Hezbollah’s arsenal.

June 13: After five months of political stalemate, Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced a new government dominated by Hezbollah and its allies.

June 17: Supporters of Syria’s uprising held a demonstration in Tripoli. At least six people were killed in clashes between Sunni and Alawite gunmen.

June 26: Hundreds rallied in Beirut to call for an end to Lebanon’s confessional political system.

June 30: The U.N. tribunal issued its first set of indictments in an investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri. Four of the accused are reportedly members of Hezbollah.

Oct. 11: In an eleventh-hour deal, the government agreed to raise the minimum wage and improve benefits to avert a strike by the General Labor Confederation.

 

2012

In 2012, sporadic gun battles between pro-Assad Alawites and pro-rebel Sunnis became a regular occurrence in Tripoli. Dozens were killed. Scores more were killed in clashes in 2013. Mounting evidence of Hezbollah intervention in Syria on the side of the Assad regime enraged Sunnis.

May – June: Sunni Muslims and Alawites intermittently clashed in Tripoli and Beirut as the Syrian civil war spilled into Lebanon. More than 20 were killed in some of the worst gun battles since the civil war.

Oct. 19: Security chief Wissam al Hassan was killed by a car bomb.

Oct. 21-22: In Beirut, gun battles broke out between Lebanese Shiite and Alawite supporters of President Bashar and Sunni supporters of Syrian rebels following the assassination of Wissam al Hassan. 

Oct. 24: The March 14 coalition of anti-Syrian parties blamed the Assad regime for the murder of Wissam al Hassan. It also held the pro-Syrian government in Lebanon responsible for facilitating the operation.

December: Several days of deadly gun battles between pro-Assad Alawites and anti-Assad Sunnis left more than a dozen dead in Tripoli.

 

2013

Lebanon’s stressed relations with Syria reached a boiling point in 2013. In March, Damascus called on Beirut to expel rebel groups from its territory. A few days later, Syrian warplanes and helicopters fired rockets into northern Lebanon near the town of Arsal.

Sectarian tensions were also stoked after four Sunni sheikhs were attacked by Shiite men in two separate incidents in March. Angry Sunnis rioted, blocked roads and burned tires in Beirut, Sidon and Tripoli. And Lebanon’s grand mufti called on Shiite movements Hezbollah and Amal to find the perpetrators.

Prime Minister Mikati’s government resigned after a cabinet dispute with Hezbollah. Tammam Salam, a Sunni from a prominent political family, replaced him. Hassan Nasrallah also publically acknowledged that Hezbollah fighters were engaged in Syria. In the second half of 2013, bombings connected to the Syrian conflict occurred in major cities.

March 15: Syria called on Lebanon to expel anti-Assad rebel groups from its territory. Damascus warned that its “patience is not unlimited.”

March 18: Syrian warplanes and helicopters fired rockets into northern Lebanon at targets near the town of Arsal.

Mid-March: Sporadic battles between Sunni and Shiite militants in Tripoli continued.

March 17: Four Sunni sheikhs were attacked by Shiite men in Beirut in two separate incidents. Angry Sunnis took to the streets, blocked roads and burned tires in Beirut, Sidon and Tripoli. Lebanon’s grand mufti called on Shiite movements Hezbollah and Amal to find the perpetrators. 

March 22: Prime Minister Mikati announced his government’s resignation and called for the establishment of a unity government after a cabinet dispute with Hezbollah. The Shiite group had opposed creating a supervisory body for the upcoming parliamentary elections and extending the term of a senior security official.

April 6: Tammam Salam, a Sunni from a prominent political family, was named the new prime minister after winning 124 of 128 votes in parliament.

May: At least 29 were killed in more than a week of clashes in Tripoli between Alawites and Sunnis.

May 25: In a televised address, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah pledged to be victorious in the fight against Syrian rebels. He also, for the first time, publically confirmed that Hezbollah members are fighting in Syria against Islamic extremists.

May 29: Parliament voted to postpone elections due in June until November 2014 amid security concerns given the spillover of violence from Syria.

June 2: At least 12 Syrian rebels were reportedly killed overnight in an ambush by Hezbollah in Lebanon, the first such clash between the two groups on Lebanese territory.

June 5: General Selim Idriss, the military chief of the main umbrella group of Syrian rebels, said his men are also ready to fight Hezbollah inside Lebanon.

June 23: Supporters of Sheikh Ahmad Assir clashed with Lebanese soldiers after a follower of the extremist Salafi is arrested at a checkpoint. At least 17 soldiers were killed.

July 22: The European Union added Hezbollah’s military wing to its list of terrorist organizations, banning money transfers to the group and enabling the freezing of its assets.

Aug. 23: Car bombs exploded outside two Sunni mosques in Tripoli killing at least 50 and wounding more than 500. The attacks, likely connected to the Syrian conflict, were reportedly the most deadly since Lebanon’s civil war.

Sept. 24: President Michel Suleiman warnde that Lebanon is facing an existential crisis due to the influx of Syrian refugees. He estimated that at least 1 million Syrian refugees were in Lebanon, 700,000 of who were registered.

Nov. 19: A double suicide bombing targeting Iran’s embassy in Beirut killed at least 22 people in one of the worst attacks in Beirut’s predominantly Shiite south since the Syrian conflict began. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a Sunni jihadist group, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Dec. 3: Nasrallah accused militants linked to Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services were behind the suicide bombings outside the Iranian embassy. Hariri rebuked him for accusing Riyadh and blamed Hezbollah for undermining coexistence in Lebanon.

Dec. 4: A senior Hezbollah commander, Hassan Lakkis, was shot dead outside his home near Beirut. The organization blamed Israel for the assassination. Jerusalem denied involvement.

Dec. 27: Mohamed Chatah, a former finance minister and ambassador to the United States, was killed in a car bombing in Beirut. The attack on the Sunni, a staunch critic of Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, killed six others.

 

2014

A new cabinet was formed in the opening months of 2014. The government included both representatives from the Hariri’s March 14 movement and Hezbollah and its allies. President Suleiman finished his six-year term in May. Parliament’s failure to select a new president created a power vacuum.

Lebanon also saw some of the worst spillover of violence from Syria in 2014. In August, Lebanese armed forces clashed with members of the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. Several soldiers were killed before a ceasefire was brokered. But the Islamist militants succeeded in taking some 30 soldiers and police captive.

In November, parliament postponed parliamentary elections to 2017 due to instability and security concerns. The elections, which had already been postponed once, were originally scheduled for June 2013.

Feb. 15: Prime Minister Salam announced a new cabinet after a 10-month deadlock. The government included representatives from the March 14 movement as well as Hezbollah and its allies.

April 3: The U.N. refugee agency reported that more than million Syrian refugees have entered Lebanon, accounting for about a quarter of the resident population.

May 24: President Suleiman finished his six-year term in office two days after parliament fails for a fifth time to pick his successor, creating a power vacuum.

July 14: The top U.N. relief official warned that 12,000 new Syrian refugees are entering Lebanon each week and that the influx was likely to cause friction between Lebanese and Syrians.

Aug. 2 – 7: Lebanese armed forces arrested a member of the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. Syrian rebels then attacked the border town of Arsal, killing several soldiers. A ceasefire brokered by clerics stopped the violence. But the rebels took some 30 soldiers and police captive. Some were released in the following weeks.

Sept. 26: Prime Minister Salam appealed to leaders at the United Nations to help his country face a “terrorist onslaught” and share the burden of absorbing Syrian refugees.

Oct. 5: Ten Hezbollah fighters were reportedly killed in gun battles with Nusra Front militants in eastern Lebanon. Dozens of Nusra Front fighters were also reportedly killed.

Oct. 7: Hezbollah planted and detonated two bombs along the Lebanon-Israel border injuring two soldiers. Israel responded by shelling two Hezbollah targets.

Oct. 24 – 27: Clashes in Tripoli between the army and Sunni militants killed nearly 20, including eight civilians. The army recaptured parts of the city that fell to militants the previous week.

Oct. 23: Lebanese forces reportedly killed three and arrest several other Islamic militants during a raid on an apartment where authorities suspected an attack was being planned. 

Oct. 24-27: Militants affiliated with Islamic extremists fighting in Syria attacked army positions around Tripoli, triggering four days of intense fighting. Lebanon’s army deployed tanks and carried out strikes with helicopters and recaptured its positions. At least ten soldiers and a civilian were killed while more than two dozen militants were arrested.

Oct. 30: Lebanese forces detained 50 people in raids on towns and Syrian refugee camps following clashes with militants in Tripoli.

Nov. 2: The Nusra Front reportedly offered to free captured Lebanese soldiers in exchange for prisoners held in Syria and Lebanon.

Nov. 4: Nasrallah defended Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria and claimed that it was still strong enough to confront Sunni extremists and Israel. 

Saudi Arabia and France sealed an agreement for Riyadh to fund the delivery of $3 billion worth of French weapons to the Lebanese army.

Nov. 5: Parliament voted to postpone parliamentary elections to 2017 due to instability related to the Syrian conflict. It was the second postponement of elections that were originally scheduled for June 2013.

Dec. 2: Lebanon announced that it has detained two women initially thought to be a wife and daughter of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as they crossed from Syria.

Dec. 30: ISIS threatened to execute captured Lebanese servicemen unless Lebanon releases al Baghdadi’s ex-wife and another woman liked the militants.

 

2015

As of January 2015, the U.N. estimated that 1.4 million Syrian refugees were living in Lebanon, more than a quarter of the resident population. Lebanese refugee camps were also areas of high recruitment for al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria throughout 2015. Hezbollah clashed with both Nusra Front and Islamic State militants along the Syria-Lebanon border frequently during the year.

Jan: A U.N. estimate puts the total number of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon at 1.4 million.

Jan. 3: The Islamic State is trying to gain control of nearby Lebanese villages from their positions in the Qalamoun mountains on the Syrian-Lebanese border, according to Lebanon’s head of the Directorate of General Security. 

Jan. 11-12: A suicide attack killed at least seven people at a café in Tripoli. Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, claimed the attack “in revenge for the Sunnis in Syria and Lebanon.” Lebanese security forces raided Roumieh prison after they found detainees were connected to the attack.

Jan. 18: ISIS fighters from Syria collected along the Lebanese border and threatened to launch attacks.

Jan. 24: Five Lebanese soldiers were killed in clashes along the Syria-Lebanon border with Islamist fights from either ISIS of the Nusra Front.

Feb. 8: The United States supplied more than $25 million in military aid to the Lebanese army to help fight jihadist groups along the Lebanon-Syria border.

Feb. 13: Ain al Hilweh, a Palestinian camp in Lebanon, was named as a corner of a new “jihadist death triangle.”

Feb. 15: Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri called for Hezbollah to leave Syria and claimed their involvement has pulled Lebanon into the conflict.

April 10: Lebanese security forces killed two suspected Islamist militants and arrested an extremist cleric in raid in the north.

April 24: Hezbollah reportedly built an airstrip for Iranian made drones in Lebanon, according to Jane’s Defense Weekly. The airstrip is north of the Bekaa Valley.

May 8: Hezbollah reportedly lost more than 40 fighters in clashes with al Qaeda’s Nusra Front in the Qalamoun mountains. Hezbollah denied the reports and claimed it only lost three men.

June 3: Hezbollah captured territory from militants near the Lebanon-Syria border.

June 9: Hezbollah and ISIS clashed for the first time in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Hezbollah lost at least 8 fighters, and ISIS lost at least 14 militants.

July 19: The Nusra Front offered to release three Lebanese soldiers in exchange for five female prisoners, including the ex-wife of the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

July 28: Two people were killed when men from Islamist Jund al Sham exchanged fire with the Fatah organization at a southern Lebanese refugee camp.

Aug. 16: Hezbollah denounced the Islamic State and said it wouldn’t survive.

Aug. 22-25: Clashes broke out between Islamists and members of the Palestinian Fatah movement in Ain al Hilweh refugee camp. Three people were killed and hundreds fled

Aug. 25: Hezbollah gave its support to the protests against Lebanon’s garbage crisis, according to a statement.

Aug. 26: Lebanon’s military prosecutor charged Ahmad al Assir, a radical Islamist cleric, with terrorism for his involvement in clashes with the Lebanese army.

Sept. 22: Hezbollah said it will shift to a more defensive role and pull back in Syria, after helping Syrian President Bashar al Assad capture key border towns.

Sept. 26: The Syrian army reportedly will transfer 75 soviet era tanks to Hezbollah, according to a Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai.

Oct. 16: Hezbollah killed five ISIS fighters with mortars and rockets in clashes along the Lebanon-Syria border.

Nov. 5: A motorcycle bomb killed at least six people in a town along the Lebanon-Syria border.

Nov. 12: Twin suicide bombings in south Beirut killed at least 43 people and injured more than 200. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

Nov. 14: Lebanese security forces arrested five Syrians and a Palestinian in connection with the November 12 twin bombings.

Dec. 1: The Lebanese government released ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s ex-wife in a prisoner swap with the Nusra Front.

Dec. 5: A man detonated a bomb during an army raid on his home, killing himself and two family members. He was a suspected Islamist militant.

Dec. 20: A prominent Hezbollah fighter who was linked to a 1979 attack on an Israeli family, was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Syria.

 

2016

Clashes between Islamist groups over the Lebanon-Syria border and in Lebanese refugee camps continued in 2016. Heavy fighting between the Palestinian Fatah movement and the Badr and Jund al Sham organizations in the Ain al Hilweh camp led to deaths and many families fleeing. ISIS and the Nusra Front continued to target Lebanese villages and forces in cross border operations.

Jan. 7: The U.S. sanctioned a Lebanese financier and his telecommunications company for supporting Hezbollah.

Feb. 2: Hezbollah fighters killed at least four members of the Nusra Front during a rocket attack on an al Qaeda vehicle in northeastern Lebanon.

Feb. 19: Saudi Arabia suspended a $3 billion aid package to Lebanon for failure to condemn attacks on Riyadh’s diplomatic missions in Iran.  

March 21: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened to strike Israel’s nuclear facilities if war between the two sides breaks out.

April 10: Lebanese authorities detained two workers at Beirut airport for alleged contacts to terrorists.

April 12: A car bomb killed a senior member of the Palestinian Fatah movement in Lebanon’s southern port city of Sidon.

May 14: Hezbollah blamed Islamist militants for killing its top military commander Mustafa Badreddine in Syria. “An investigation has shown that the blast that targeted one of our positions near the Damascus international airport that led to the martyrdom of the brother commander Mustafa Badreddine was caused by artillery bombardment carried out by takfiri (Sunni extremist) groups present in that region,” the Hezbollah statement said.

June 27: Four suicide bombers killed five people in a Christian village of al Aqaa near the Syrian border. A second wave of suicide bombings injured at least 15 people later in the evening as residents prepared for the funerals of the previous victims.

June 28: Lebanon warned of a heightened terrorist threat after the eight suicide bombings in the Christian village of al Aqaa. The Lebanese army raided and detained more than 100 Syrians who had entered Lebanon illegally in the Baalbek region.

June 29: The Lebanese army reportedly foiled a planned attack targeting east Beirut.

End of July: ISIS and the Nusra Front were using Lebanese refugee camps to recruit fighters, according to Lebanese security forces.  The Ain al Hilweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon is the most active recruitment area.

Aug. 3: The division of Iraq and Syria from sectarian fighting is a possible outcome in the region, Hezbollah said. The group added it did not see an end to the civil war in sight.

Aug. 9: The United States supplied 50 armored vehicles, 40 artillery pieces and 50 grenade launchers to the Lebanese army to help counter the Islamist militant threat from Syria.

Sept. 22: An ISIS commander was captured by Lebanese forces in Ain al Hilweh refugee camp.

Oct. 20: Lebanese forces attacked ISIS in the Arsal Barrens with artillery shells and missiles, killing several ISIS fighters.

Oct. 26: ISIS launched a surprise attack on the Nusra Front in the Arsal Barrens in east Lebanon. Hezbollah shelled both groups, killing and wounding several members on each side.

Nov. 3: Saad Hariri was named Lebanon’s new prime minister. He previously served in the role from 2009 to 2011.

Nov. 22: Israel’s UN ambassador claimed Iran was smuggling weapons and ammunition to Hezbollah via commercial flights through Lebanon in a letter to the UN Security Council.

Dec. 22: Jund al Sham and the Fatah movement agreed to a ceasefire deal after fresh clashes erupted in the Ain al Hilweh refugee camp. One person was killed, and several were wounded in the latest round of violence.

 

2017

Lebanon announced a new offensive against ISIS in 2017, following a barrage of attacks against Lebanese forces. Hezbollah was the focal point of a political crisis after Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation from Saudi Arabia due to growing Iranian influence. He later returned and withdrew his resignation after claims that Saudi Arabia was holding him prisoner.

Jan. 10: The United States designated two senior Hezbollah members, Ali Daamoush and Mustafa Mughniyeh, as global terrorists.

Jan. 17: Hezbollah claimed it found a downed Israeli drone in Lebanon.

Feb. 13: "We are very optimistic that when an idiot settles in the White House and boasts about his idiocy, this is the beginning of relief for the oppressed around the world,” said Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Feb. 15: The United Nations urged Lebanon to disarm all Lebanese and non-Lebanese factions, including Hezbollah.

Feb. 16: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened Israel’s nuclear reactor, saying that the group’s rockets could reach the site in the southern city of Dimona.

Feb. 21: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said there would be “no red lines” in the group’s next war with Israel.