US sends $50mn worth of weapons to Lebanon as aid against terrorism
The US has delivered a new shipment of weapons and military equipment to Lebanon in an attempt to bolster the Middle Eastern nation in countering extremists and militant groups from neighboring war-torn Syria.
The shipment provided to the Lebanese army by the US includes 50 armored vehicles, 40 artillery pieces, and 50 grenade launchers. This new $50 million package brings US military aid to Lebanon to $220 million this year, Reuters reports, citing the US ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard.
The US handed three military helicopters over to the Lebanese army in March, while the UK promised to provide training for Lebanon’s Land Border Regiments. The UK is to spend $30 million to train Lebanese troops in special “urban counterterrorism” techniques over three years.
In the meantime, Saudi Arabia, a traditional financial supporter of Lebanon, has announced that it is suspending a $3 billion aid package for Lebanese security forces because of what it called Beirut’s failure to condemn attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran in January.
The move has raised concerns in the US, prompting it to discuss the issue with the Saudis in early March.
Lebanon suffers from the armed conflict in neighboring Syria, as fighting between different militant and extremist groups there often spills over Lebanon’s northern border. Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and other groups also regularly stage incursions into Lebanese territory.
In 2014, Islamic State and Al Nusra Front even briefly seized a Lebanese border town called Arsal, but were driven out by the army.
Lebanon has also seen terrorist attacks. In June, six people were killed and 19 injured in a suicide bombing in the village of Qaa on the Syrian border. In addition, according to the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, Lebanon hosts more than a million Syrian refugees – equivalent to 17 percent of its population.