Lebanon’s complex religious and ethnic make-up has led to ideological and political polarisation and fragmented alliances amongst its eighteen recognised sects. This polarisation, combined with a large Palestinian refugee population, escalated into a fourteen-year civil war beginning in 1975. In addition to internal pressures, Syria, Israel, and the PLO have fought their own wars within the country, each citing regional allegiances or national security issues. The most recent such proxy war was Israel’s attack on Hezbollah in July 2006 that displaced 900,000 Lebanese and resulted in the deaths of more than 1,100 people.
Deep sectarian divisions erupted again into violence in May 2008, when Beirut and other locations saw armed clashes between Shia militias and forces loyal to the then Prime Minister Saad Hariri. A national unity government was formed in the aftermath, but collapsed in early 2011 after the resignation of 10 Hezbollah cabinet ministers and their political allies. These events were precipitated by a long standing disagreement over a UN-backed inquiry into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, which Hezbollah feared would indict its members. A new government was finally created on June 13th, 2011 run by the Hezbollah-dominated March 8th Alliance. Tensions remain incredibly high and the on-going conflict in Syria has only increased the risk for destabilisation once again. As of January 2014, negotiations are ongoing between the March 8th and March 14th coalitions to form a new unity government.