Al Jazeera Arabic reporter Tamer Almisshal investigates a confrontation in 2013 that highlights the serious tensions in Lebanese politics, the rise and role of Hezbollah, the emergence of Salafi-inspired groups and the depth of the country’s continuing sectarian divide.
What became known as the Battle of Abra is supposed to have begun with the killing of three soldiers in an attack by armed supporters of the conservative Sunni cleric Ahmed al-Assir. They’re alleged to have attacked an army checkpoint in Sidon’s Abra neighbourhood on June 23, 2013. Two days of intense fighting followed, resulting in the deaths of at least 17 Lebanese soldiers, more than an estimated 30 of al-Assir’s supporters, two civilians and (according to some accounts) two men associated with Hezbollah.
The fighting was the culmination of tension which had been building for the previous year, with al-Assir seemingly always at the centre of the storm.
Accounts of the Battle of Abra vary but nearly four years on, the question as to who really fired the first shot still seems to remain unanswered. Al-Assir’s supporters accuse Hezbollah of provoking it - and the Lebanese army of denying the armed Shia faction was involved at all.
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