Lebanese soldiers killed in border ambush

04 December 2014

Lebanese army targeted by Islamist attacks

Six Lebanese soldiers were killed during an ambush on their patrol near Ras Baalbek on Lebanon’s north-east border with Syria on 2 December.

Another soldier was killed on 3 December while dismantling a bomb in the border town of Arsal.

Spillover from the Syrian war continues to destabilise its smaller neighbour, but various factions in Lebanon are uniting in support of the army to avoid exacerbating the tension and tipping the country into widespread violence.

Saudi Arabia and France have signed a $3bn deal to equip the Lebanese army, while an Iranian offer is also on the table. The UK government is also spending $30m on improving Lebanon’s border defences, to avoid a repeat of the jihadist incursion into Arsal in August, according to the BBC.

The militants took a group of soldiers captive in the incursion, and negotiations for their release in return for captured Islamists are ongoing. Lebanese security forces claimed they detained the wife and son of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as they entered the country from Syria on 2 December.

The Lebanese parliament has still not elected a president, leaving the key post vacant since May 2014. However, according to local press reports, opposing factions Hezbollah and the Future Movement are moving closer to a dialogue.

The new president will face the challenging tasks of keeping the Syrian civil war from engulfing the country, dealing with more than a million Syrian refugees, upgrading Lebanon’s overwhelmed infrastructure and getting its struggling economy back on track.

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