The highway leading to the Bekaa Valley town of Bar Elias, close to the Syrian border. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)
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Sunni residents of the Bekaa Valley are growing increasingly frustrated by the influence of Hezbollah and the party's continued involvement in Syria. Though tensions between the area's largely pro-opposition Sunni towns and the party – which backs the regime – have been simmering since the 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri, the war in Syria and more recently the siege of Arsal have exacerbated friction, residents and experts told The Daily Star. Many in the Sunni community feel that the Syrian regime used its enormous influence to shape the Lebanese Army as it was being rebuilt after the Lebanese Civil War, ensuring that the top command posts were occupied by its allies, Khashan said.The tension between Hezbollah and opposition supporters, a fissure that falls largely along sectarian lines, has increased since the fall of Yabroud, resulting in the subsequent "siege" of the predominantly Sunni border town Arsal, which is hosting more than 50,000 refugees.Hezbollah and some Lebanese authorities have made similar accusations against the town, which openly supports the Syrian opposition.Some believe the actions taken against Arsal portend future operations against Sunni towns sympathetic to the Syrian opposition.Khashan, however, felt that Arsal's strategic position as a border town was unique, and doubted the prospect of future blockades by Hezbollah supporters.
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