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Lebanon News

2012: A year in photos

BEIRUT: Moments of horrific and deadly violence in the country, broken at least once by genuine unity, underscored the major news of 2012.

From the chronic street clashes in Tripoli to the temporary hope that Pope Benedict XVI offered during his short visit, this year’s photo retrospective captures just a few of the country’s greatest tragedies and successes.

Syrian refugees Several weeks into 2012, about 5,200 Syrians had registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Lebanon.

Those fleeing the conflict next door remained largely in the north and reported living in difficult circumstances, staying with host families or in cramped, multifamily spaces.

As the conflict in Syria escalated to civil war, the small trickle of Syrians into the Akkar region swelled to a constant flow of refugees, who crossed the border by the thousands during periods of intensified bloodshed.

As 2012 comes to a close, the number of Syrians in Lebanon officially registered with the U.N. has skyrocketed to more than 164,000 – not counting unregistered Syrians in the country estimated in the tens of thousands.

The number of refugees has become a humanitarian burden for the country and its many aid organizations, so much so that politicians have called for closing the border to more refugees until adequate resources become available.

Tripoli clashes Decades-old tension in Tripoli between rival communities reared its violent head in February, as pro-Syrian rebel Sunnis of the Bab al-Tabbaneh district and Alawites of Jabal Mohsen supporting President Bashar Assad took up arms against each other.

Since February, the restive city has fallen victim to regular outbursts of street clashes that resulted in scores of dead and hundreds of wounded. The most recent violence erupted in December after Assad’s forces killed a group of rebel recruits from north Lebanon.

The December clashes in Tripoli left 17 dead and more than 70 wounded. Despite Army-enforced truces and talks between major political and religious figures, nothing has succeeded in bringing lasting peace to the city.

Red Hot Chili Peppers A night of rock ’n’ roll revelry brought the country’s summer to a close with more than 10,000 people gathering to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers perform at Beirut’s Water Front.

The concert brought a little controversy as some boycotted due to the band’s scheduled gig in Tel Aviv. But the show affirmed the country’s party scene was alive – as did other A-list shows like Snow Patrol, Slash and Sting – despite discouraging travel alerts and low tourism rates.

Papal visit Greeted by thousands of cheering Lebanese – Muslims and Christians, alike – the pope brought on his mid-September visit a fleeting moment of national unity and pride.

The pope spent his three-day visit issuing calls to restore and strengthen inter-religious cooperation. He denounced religious extremists and called on Lebanon’s politicians and religious figures to help restore peace to the region.

Ashrafieh bombing Any euphoria left by the pope’s visit was shattered on Oct. 19 when an explosion ripped through Ashrafieh’s Sassine Square and killed Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan and at least two others, and wounded more than 100.

The bombing, estimated at 50 kg of TNT, destroyed the facades of nearby buildings, shattered windshields for blocks of parked cars, sent residents into the road screaming for loved ones and blew a crater more than a meter deep into the road.

The assassination has put a halt to the National Dialogue aimed at bringing the March 8 and opposition March 14 political alliances together, and has raised calls for the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government.

The Beirut Marathon, local concerts and various community activities have raised money for the victims of the bombing.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 27, 2012, on page 2.

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