Lebanon: Bekaa & Baalbek - El-Hermel Governorates Profile (October 2018)
The Bekaa valley region is administratively split into two governorates: Baalbek/Hermel (located in the north) and Bekaa (located in the south). Along the Bekaa region lies Lebanon’s largest ocial border crossing with Syria, located in the Masnaa locality. The region is home to 555,149 Lebanese, 23,7 per cent of which are considered deprived, in addition to 338,577 registered Syrian refugees, 16,863 Palestinians and 16,326 Lebanese returnees, as the region makes up the vast majority of Lebanon’s 375 km border with Syria. With more than half of its population being refugees, the region is one of the most aected by the Syrian crisis.
Until August 2017, Baalbek’s north-eastern border was the site of sporadic armed clashes opposing Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and Hezbollah to Islamist Armed Opposition Groups (I/AOG) around the localities of Aarsal, al-Zoueitini, Khreibeh, Qaa and Ras Baalbek. Some border towns were also subject to suicide bombings and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
This had impacted the humanitarian response as security forces restricted access of humanitarian actors and their operations, enacted Syrian-only curfews, and put hundreds of Syrians under detention in raids on the informal settlements of Ain al-Shaab, Tibeh and Baalbek.
August 2017 marked a significant milestone in the stabilization of the region. Indeed, positions previously held since 2014 by I/AOG Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and ISIS have been cleared by successive operations led by Hezbollah and the Lebanese Armed Forces. Marking the improvement of the security situation, the al-Qaa Jousieh border crossing re-opened in December 2017, after five years of closure. The LAF intermittently conducts military operations against local drug cartels which prevail in some towns, which can seldom lead to unrest.
The sectarian composition of the Bekaa region is mixed: Baalbek/Hermel governorate hosts a predominantly Shiite majority with pockets of Christians and Sunnis; Bekaa governorate hosts a more diverse group of religious sects namely Christians, Sunnis, Shiites and Druze - with no notable majority. Mostly rural, the region’s economy relies largely on agricultural production, with accordant employment concentration. 79 UN agencies and NGOs have a presence across the region. Regular inter-agency and sector coordination meetings are held in Zahle, located in Bekaa governorate