How badly is Syria's civil war spawning sectarian violence in the region? Palestinians in Lebanon fear looming violence from Hizballah – a "resistance" group created and underwritten by Iran to fight Israel.
According to a Daily Star report Wednesday, the spiritual leader of all Salafist groups in Lebanon's Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, believes that Hizballah's significant role defending Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad could lead to violence. Many Palestinians from the camp have joined rebels fighting to topple Assad, and Hizballah's support has been openly criticized.
Any prospective violence between Hizballah and Palestinians would be inherently sectarian and could be worse than the bloodshed during the 1980s between Fatah forces and the Amal militia, said Sheik Jamal Khattab.
"When the war of the camps broke out in 1985, it did not pit Sunnis against Shiites," Khattab said.
Lebanese security sources revealed that various Palestinian Islamist and Salafist groups have finalized preparations to defend Sidon against any potential Hizballah attack. In 2008, Hizballah fighters conquered areas of west Beirut, attacking opposition offices in Sidon after the Lebanese government decided to dismantle the terrorist organization's telecommunications network.
News of high-level contacts between Hamas and Tehran could ease the tension in Lebanon. The relationship between Iran and Hamas frayed when Hamas backed Assad's opponents. But Hamas is politically isolated following Muslim Brotherhood's ouster from power in Egypt, and the terrorist organization is attempting to reinvigorate ties with its previous patron state.
This important development naturally raises concerns in American and Israeli security circles. The potential re-emergence of full out Iranian backing may embolden Hamas to engage in further terrorist activity in the Sinai or launch attacks against Israel.
These two seemingly contradictory developments illustrate the complex nature of the ongoing Sunni-Shia relationship between various factions within both religious camps. Iran previously punished Hamas for refusing to support the Assad regime; however, their mutual disdain for military-ruled Egypt and the Jewish state provides an opportunity for rapprochement.