The North of Lebanon has witnessed a deteriorating security situation in the last few weeks. From fighting in refugee camps to clashes in Tripoli, and bombings at the borders, Lebanese citizens in border towns are left unprotected. This week, the Syrian forces shelled Wadi Khaled, killing three Lebanese citizens. In response, the government deployed the Lebanese army to the North but admitted that it would take ten days for the forces to spread there. The lax attitude with which the government has been handling the security crisis has caused concern and frustration among residents of those towns.
On Saturday, Syrian forces shelled the northern town of Wadi Khaled, which has arguably turned into a buffer zone since the escalation of the uprising in Syria. Three Lebanese residents died in the incident. To make matters worse, Syrian soldiers crossed the border and briefly detained two members of Lebanon's General Security from their offices in the north.
In the past few months, gunmen have reportedly established checkpoints and engaged in tit-for-tat kidnappings. Supporters of the uprising and opponents of the Assad regime continue to clash in the neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen in Tripoli, threatening the lives of both civilians and soldiers trying to restore order. Furthermore, Syrian dissidents fleeing to Lebanon are still at risk of being detained. This week, Zakaria Mutlak, a Syrian dissident, was arrested by military intelligence upon arrival in Beirut, provoking an outcry from human rights groups.
Meanwhile, the situation in Palestinian camps remains highly charged. Last month, the Lebanese army clashed with residents of Nahr Al Bared camp, which resulted in the death of two Palestinians and the injury of nine others. The clashes were immediately contained, but the risk of further violence is very high. In addition to Palestinian camps, there is a growing concern over the lack of support for incoming Syrian refugees, which is increasingly becoming a financial burden on the Lebanese economy.
The government's response to most security violations has been mostly condemnation, with little action to secure the safety of citizens. For one, army deployment has been slow. Admitedly, there is a radical Sunni group that is resistant to LAF deployment, for fear that the soldiers may be loyal to their political rival Hezbollah. This has complicated the situation and the government's response to the fighting.
Given the complexity of the military option, the government could play a more proactive diplomatic role and file complaints with the U.N. on security breaches. This is something that Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour was quick to enforce when a Lebanese shepherd was kidnapped at the southern border with Israel last week. (He was released a day later.) The March 14 alliance has for years been calling for the demarcation of Lebanese borders as a first step to protecting the country's sovereignty - this is a concern that must be taken seriously by all parties.
The Hezbollah-dominated government expressed it would adhere to a "non-alignment" policy due to potential repercussions from the Syrian uprising. However, this policy has failed to protect Lebanese citizens, as clashes continue to result in the loss of life. The government must realize that "non-alignment" requires forceful action that puts an end to the aggression; this includes deploying the army forcefully and swiftly. It also entails resorting to the U.N. and the Security Council to report violations, especially given the limited leverage that Lebanon may have regionally. In the absence of this kind of engagement, the government is at risk of further erosion of its credibility, leading to more frustration, tensions and potentially more violence.