Last weekend’s bloody fighting in Abra and Sidon remain a divisive issue in Lebanon, where the military insists a bloody crackdown on Salafist militiants, including the sacking of a key mosque in Sidon, were vital to restoring order, after a militia loyal to cleric Ahmad al-Assir routed a military checkpoint.
The details of the checkpoint attack are still in dispute, but the bigger issue is over the military attack on Sidon, with footage emerging showing troops beating unarmed detainees and media reports suggesting Hezbollah fighters fought alongside the army against the Salafists.
The military is threatening news outlets that continue to report on those details, particularly Hezbollah’s involvement, while local government officials demand a full investigation into the incident.
The anger over what is being seen as a heavy-handed response in Sidon is also fueling protests in Tripoli, which has already been a hotbed of sectarian fighting. The protests reflect a risk of Lebanon’s Army losing its perceived religious neutrality, which could mean sectarian clashes will only grow going forward.