For much of the last several decades, Lebanon has been wracked by instability and tangled up in the affairs of larger or more powerful neighbours. Its confessional political system, based on power sharing among its eighteen officially recognised ethno-religious groups, is arguably both the cause and the effect of recurrent strife, notably the 1975-1990 civil war. Today the elites who run the system are also implicated in ever-deepening state dysfunction and economic recession. Meanwhile, Lebanon is at risk of spillover from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Syrian war and regional turmoil, due partly to the rise of Hizbollah, the Shiite Islamist movement opposed to Israel and allied with Iran and the Syrian regime, as a political force. The country hosts hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees as well as nearly 1.5 million Syrians. Pending changes that would allow resolution of the outside conflicts, Crisis Group works to keep Lebanon insulated from their flare-ups, to seek durable solutions for refugees and to encourage structural reform that might alleviate the country's internal problems.
As war rages in Gaza, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to escalate, causing grievous harm to civilians and threatening stability across the Middle East. Crisis Group experts offer a 360-degree view of how various capitals in the region view this crisis and their own interests therein.
Deadly border clashes between Hizbollah and Israel expanded in scale and scope, further underscoring looming risk of full-scale war.
Hostilities continued in southern Lebanon amid risk of wider conflict. Border clashes persisted between Hizbollah and Israel throughout Nov, with intensity of fighting and casualty count increasing and operations from both sides penetrating deeper into other’s territory, although both appeared keen to avoid massive expansion of conflict; fighting since 7 Oct has killed over 80 Hizbollah fighters and at least ten Israeli soldiers, while displacing over 46,000 residents in south. Notably, Israeli strike in south 5 Nov killed four civilians, including three children. Israeli forces same day claimed Hizbollah killed Israeli civilian with anti-tank missile. Hizbollah’s cross-border attacks 12 Nov reportedly wounded seven Israeli military personnel and ten others. In sign of expanding theatre of fighting, Hamas 6 Nov claimed to have launched rockets from inside Lebanon towards Israeli cities of Haifa and Nahariya, and Israeli drones 11 Nov struck target more than 40km from border. In one of its largest salvos, Hizbollah 23 Nov fired some 50 rockets at Israel after Israel killed five fighters. Such strikes risk high number of casualties, which may unintentionally trigger spiral of escalation toward all-out war. Alternatively, either side may opt to escalate conflict intentionally: if Israeli campaign in Gaza were to pose existential threat to Hamas, Hizbollah’s stance may turn more aggressive, while Israel faces domestic pressure to confront Hizbollah. After ceasefire between Hamas and Israel 24 Nov began (see Israel-Palestine), Hizbollah signalled it would honour ceasefire as long as Israel did. Clashes between group and Israel also occurred in Syria (see Syria).
Executive vacuum and parliamentary paralysis continued. Presidential vacuum prevailing since 1 Nov 2022 persisted with little apparent prospect of resolution. Likewise, parliament remained at virtual standstill as several political parties argue it cannot meet for legislative sessions until it has elected new president. Leading Christian party Lebanese Forces 13 Nov proposed exceptional legislative session to parliament speaker solely to extend term of army chief Joseph Aoun, who is scheduled to retire on 10 Jan 2024.
Nothing happens in southern Lebanon without Hezbollah’s knowledge.
Israel and one of its neighbors [Lebanon] - a neighbor that doesn't officially recognize Israel - have come to a constructive solution for a conflict. And that's histor...
Israeli security interests are best served by Lebanon's economy being rebuilt rather than the crisis getting worse.
Thus far, October’s exchanges of fire between Hizbollah and Israel have stayed within the sides’ red lines. Still, with an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza looming, risks are tremendous. A Gaza ceasefire, while improbable, is the only way to rule out a broader war.
In this video, David Wood discusses the presidential vacuum in Lebanon and how it's affecting the country's ability to deal with its other compounding crises.
With tensions rising along the Israeli-Lebanese border, the UN peacekeeping force stationed in the area has arguably never been more important. With the mandate up for renewal, the UN Security Council and troop-contributing countries should reassert their backing for the mission in the strongest terms.
In this video, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Lebanon, David Wood, warns that tensions between Hizbollah and Israel risk ending the relative calm of the past seventeen years.
The CrisisWatch Digest Lebanon offers a monthly one-page snapshot of conflict-related country trends in a clear, accessible format, using a map of the region to pinpoint developments.
The erosion of Lebanese political institutions, which has already disabled the presidency and the cabinet, now threatens hundreds of municipalities. Amid its crippling economic crisis, Lebanon can ill afford to lose one of the last vestiges of state functionality.
Barring an eleventh-hour compromise, Lebanon will soon be without a president. An extended vacancy could stall action needed to ease the country’s economic crisis, risking unrest. With outside help, politicians should strive to avert this outcome – and to find ameliorative measures for the interim.
Domestic politics in Israel and Lebanon could scuttle talks about their claims in the Mediterranean – and to the gas riches underneath. With the U.S. mediator’s help, the two countries should refocus on achieving an accord that serves their mutual interest and spares them a confrontation.
On 15 May, amid a continuing economic meltdown, Lebanese voters chose a new parliament. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert David Wood parses the results and assesses the implications for efforts to resolve the country’s deepening crisis.
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