The war in Syria has just spread to Lebanon, said the Gulf News (United Arab Emirates) in an editorial. A massive car bombing in a densely populated Christian neighborhood of Beirut killed Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, who headed the powerful Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces, and at least eight others. Suspicion immediately fell on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and for good reason. Hassan was the investigator who implicated Syria in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and this year he uncovered a Syrian-backed plot to carry out a bombing campaign in Lebanon. Hariri’s son, Saad Hariri, openly accused Assad of the hit, telling CNN, “This regime is killing his own people, so he will not even think twice about killing the Lebanese.” But let’s hope that Hariri and others “counsel calm” rather than retribution. Otherwise, Lebanon “risks being sucked into a vortex of violence.”
The bombing has revealed how fragmented our society is, said Hanin Ghaddar in Now Lebanon. In 2005, “all Lebanese gathered together in Martyrs’ Square as one body under the Lebanese flag” to protest the killing of Hariri. Not so after this assassination. The Lebanese are bitterly divided into pro- and anti-Assad camps, and we are already fighting among ourselves. Hassan’s funeral this week turned violent, fueled in part by a Sunni cleric who used his eulogy to snap at the mourners, “Stop crying like women and take out your swords.” The clashes terrified the international community, which fears chaos in Lebanon. “Almost every Western ambassador in the country rushed to visit Prime Minister Najib Mikati to make sure he does not resign.”
Don’t they know that the Lebanese government is already an empty shell? asked Issa Goraieb in L’Orient–Le Jour (Lebanon). We inhabit a “political and moral vacuum,” in that our government professes to be neutral in the Syrian conflict but is dominated by the Syrian-backed Shiite party Hezbollah, which “openly sides with the bloodiest dictator in the region.” And we have a security vacuum, thanks to the Syrian moles in our intelligence services.
Syria is bent on drawing us into the conflict, said the Daily Star (Lebanon). The Assad regime wants “to bog down the international community” with other regional problems to divert attention from its own atrocities. That is why all Lebanese—Shiites, Sunnis, Christians, people of all sects—must band together to forge our own peace. We must repudiate Syrian agents, but also those in the opposition who incited and participated in violence at Hassan’s funeral. No one wants a restart of the 15-year civil war that ended in 1990. Syria would be “happy to watch Lebanon burn down.” It is vital that we “unite in refusing to let that happen.”