There have been two attacks recently on convoys of US embassy personnel in Lebanon. Both appear to have involved convoys traveling to the southern city of Sidon. In the first, last Saturday, a group of youths reportedly lobbed rocks and bottles at the convoy, which had an escort from the Lebanese Security Force. The State Department subsequently issued a travel warning, on Monday (4 April), urging US citizens to avoid traveling to Lebanon.
A second incident on Thursday, 7 April involved about 60 protesters (described by an AFP reporter as “supporters of leftist groups”) throwing rocks and bottles at a convoy of US vehicles, and shouting that the Americans were “Israeli conspirators.” (H/t: Elder of Ziyon)
Neither attack involved a bomb, like the January 2008 attempt on a US diplomatic vehicle in Beirut, which killed three bystanders. That attack was the first in 23 years, but it didn’t inaugurate a follow-on period of additional attacks, nor was it the same kind of event as the rock-and-bottle-throwing attacks. The attacks in the last week were notable for the fact that the perpetrators weren’t trying to hide, and in fact were willing, as described in one if the cases, to throw projectiles while Lebanese security forces were present. The pattern is, at the very least, reminiscent of the frequent attacks on Israeli drivers in East Jerusalem.
The disquieting nature of this trend is partially mitigated by the fact that it has been confined so far to the vicinity of Sidon. Southern Lebanon has been held by Hezbollah for some time. But it would be a noticeable setback if conditions were to become too dangerous for official visits by US embassy personnel.
The overall trend of conditions in Lebanon is not positive, of course. Israel issued a report at the end of March on Hezbollah’s network of 1,000 facilities in southern Lebanon, where militants store weapons and maintain bases for operation. A portion of the area is nominally patrolled by the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), but in practice, UNIFIL is frequently stymied in its duties and unable to even enter areas denied to it by the locals.
Equal opportunity is flourishing in Lebanon, however. Much of the ongoing demining effort in the south is being undertaken by women, who do their work suitably hijabbed (and decked out with protective vests). Neither the fiancé nor the mother of Nada “The Minesweeper” Nehme is keen on her current line of work, but the fiancé, at least, has accepted it. Mom – apparently coming from a more traditional perspective – wishes she “would quit and have a happy life.”