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CrisisWatch Lebanon

Deteriorated Situation

Massive explosion in capital Beirut fuelled violent anti-govt protests and prompted PM Diab’s govt to resign. In port of Beirut, large stockpile of highly explosive ammonium nitrate – stored, despite repeated warnings, near densely populated area without adequate safety measures – 4 Aug reportedly caught fire and triggered massive explosion that killed at least 190, injured some 7,000 and displaced up to 300,000. Catastrophe and govt negligence sparked popular anger against political elite: thousands 8-9 Aug took to streets of Beirut demanding justice; clashes broke out with security forces killing one police officer and reportedly injuring over 700 civilians and 70 security personnel. PM Diab 10 Aug announced resignation of his govt and blamed disaster in Beirut on corruption of political elite whom he accused of thwarting his reform efforts. Parliament 31 Aug voted diplomat Mustapha Adib as new PM and President Aoun tasked him with forming govt. French President Macron 6 Aug travelled to Beirut and vowed to provide Lebanese people with support but warned that “if reforms are not carried out, Lebanon will continue to sink”. During emergency donor conference spearheaded by France, international donors 9 Aug pledged some $250mn in humanitarian relief; International Monetary Fund (IMF) director Kristalina Georgieva 9 Aug said IMF was ready to “redouble” efforts to help Lebanon. In north, unidentified gunmen night of 21-22 Aug killed three in Kaftoun village; security forces 23-24 Aug arrested several suspects and attempted to arrest another one who reportedly blew himself up. Shiite religious banners 27 Aug triggered clashes between Shiites and Sunnis killing two in Khaldeh. Special Tribunal for Lebanon 18 Aug convicted in absentia one Hizbollah member and acquitted three others for involvement in assassination of former PM Rafik Hariri in 2005, confirming that no evidence was found implicating Hizbollah’s leadership or the Syrian regime. In south, Hizbollah 22 Aug claimed downing Israeli drone near Aita al-Shaab village; alleged cross-border attack by Hizbollah on Israeli troops night of 25-26 Aug prompted retaliatory airstrikes on Hizbollah posts. Amid surge in COVID-19 cases, caretaker govt 21 Aug imposed two-week partial lockdown and night time curfew.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

22 Aug 2020
Turkey is also one of the candidates to rebuild Beirut harbour. There is also a section within Lebanese society – amongst Sunni Muslims – who have some sympathy for Turkey’s neo-Ottoman project. Cyprus Mail

Heiko Wimmen

Project Director, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon
13 Aug 2020
The Lebanese state has been hollowed out by decades of corruption and patronage, and this has undermined due process and any sense of accountability. Voice of America

Heiko Wimmen

Project Director, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon
21 Feb 2018
[The Trump administration] is content allowing Israel to take the lead in pushing back against Iranian and Hezbollah influence in Syria. The Washington Times

Robert Malley

President & CEO
9 Feb 2018
The real risk [for Israel and Lebanon] is that of a miscommunication or accident being a trigger of a conflict across their border. The Daily Star

Joost Hiltermann

Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
2 Jan 2018
[The return of Assad’s forces to the border] has the potential of creating a more united front of resistance between Lebanon and Syria against Israel. Jewish Week

Ofer Zalzberg

Former Senior Analyst, Arab-Israeli Conflict
26 Nov 2017
Hezbollah thrives on its position of being a state within a state, an alternative provider for all kinds of things [when Lebanon's political institutions are weakened]. The Washington Post

Heiko Wimmen

Project Director, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon

Latest Updates

Lebanon is on the Brink of Economic Collapse

The accumulation of crises is driving ever greater numbers of Lebanese into absolute poverty. While the COVID-19 lockdown is gradually easing, the loss of jobs and purchasing power triggered new protests that are turning violent and may prefigure the disintegration of state capacity and institutions.

Arab Protests: A Wicked Dance Between Rulers and Subjects

A new wave of popular protests has jolted an already deeply unsettled Arab world. Nine years ago, uprisings across the region signalled a rejection of corrupt autocratic rule that failed to deliver jobs, basic services and reliable infrastructure. Yet regime repression and the protests’ lack of organisation, leadership and unified vision thwarted hopes of a new order. As suddenly as the uprisings erupted, as quickly they descended into violence. What followed was either brutal civil war or regime retrenchment. Tunisia stands as the sole, still fragile, exception.

Originally published in Valdai Club

Lebanon’s Revolt

Austerity measures have triggered countrywide unrest in Lebanon. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Heiko Wimmen says the prime minister’s emergency measures may be too little, too late. Most protesters appear bent on the government’s resignation if not the political system‘s complete overhaul.

Hezbollah and Israel: Deterrence at the Edge of Destruction

After 13 years of maintaining the status quo, Israel and Hezbollah are now negotiating new rules of engagement.

Originally published in Middle East Eye

Keep the Calm in Lebanon

The Israel-Lebanon border has been relatively quiet for the past 13 years. The latest tit-for-tat threatens the balance.

Originally published in The American Prospect