Indeed, the Lebanese government is coming under mounting international pressure to provide proper humanitarian assistance to refugees, with 2,000 estimated to have entered the country just since the weekend and an increasing number expected to follow. But the government is torn between responding to that pressure and observing the interests of the Assad regime in Damascus, to which it has close ties.
Yesterday, US Ambassador Maura Connelly urged Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel to provide help for all Syrians fleeing into Lebanon whether civilians, activists, or Army deserters. Meanwhile, Ali Abdul Karim, the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon, was emphasizing to Prime Minister Najib Mikati the need to secure Lebanon’s border with Syria to prevent the smuggling of arms to rebel groups and the infiltration of anti-regime militants.
On Sunday, the Lebanese Army detained 35 Syrians who crossed into the northern Bekaa Valley on charges of carrying arms. However, 28 of them were subsequently released after it was ascertained that they had not used their weapons in Lebanon.
Wearing a brown leather jacket with a thick gray scarf wrapped around his neck, the hollow-eyed Abu Abbas appears still in shock from the experiences he and his family endured in Qusayr.
“There was no electricity, no water, no phones. It was too dangerous to walk to the shops to buy bread because of the snipers,” says the father of three small children. “We could not sleep at night because we never knew when a shell would hit our house.”
One mortar round exploded on the roof of his home, he says, although his family – sheltering on the ground floor – escaped injury.