Battle of Baalbek

In Baalbek earlier this month, the Lebanese army got into a battle with the members of the 20,000-strong Jaafar clan, noted for its involvement in the hashish trade. At least 10 people were wounded – six of them soldiers. 

Now, Mitchell Prothero of The National has been there to take a look and talk to the locals. 

"The Lebanese army appears to have deployed more tanks, artillery pieces and anti-aircraft guns than can be seen along the border with Israel," he writes.

Just past one checkpoint, graffiti on the walls of bullet-riddled middle-class homes reads: "Welcome to Camp Fallujah", a reference to the violent occupation of that Iraqi city by US troops from 2003 to 2008. Inside one of the houses, several young men gathered, smoking hashish and discussing the conditions they lived under as young members of Lebanon’s most notorious tribe.

"OK, I very much like hashish," said Abu Ali Jaafar, 20, whose thin frame and stylish hair belies the 55 court warrants the Lebanese government has issued against him. "And it has been my family tradition to grow and sell hashish since the time before the Ottoman empire. The government offers us nothing in return for stopping but is this a crime you can just murder us for?"

Another says:

“I’m in university, I don’t want to tell you where, but when the professors find your name is Jaafar, they’re either scared of you or fail you out of their class. I want to study law; I have no warrants out for me ... but there’s almost no hope. So during the attack, I joined in and fought.”

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 27 April 2010.