BEIRUT: The pro-Hezbollah Resistance Brigades is becoming more impudent in Sidon, according to sources in the southern city, but it remains unclear whether this is the result of direct orders from the group or whether it indicates disorganization within its ranks. A number of security incidents in the city and its suburbs, all involving brigade members, raised concerns that the group has become increasingly reckless ever since Salafist Sheikh Ahmad Assir became a fugitive, sources said.
In June the suburb of Abra was the scene of a military crackdown on Assir, after his supporters attacked and killed several soldiers at an Army checkpoint.
Assir was a fierce critic of Hezbollah and accused the Resistance Brigades of spying on him.
Sources said that because of the political cover Hezbollah provides to the Resistance Brigades, they have been able to regularly breach the rule of law in the city.
Sources added that the common thread in all security incidents involving brigade members was that none had been arrested and police were reluctant to document the incidents.
According to security sources, on Aug. 17 at 2:30 a.m. three young men in a red Kia Picanto vehicle fired shots in the air in Sidon’s Christian Qrayyeh village and insulted several residents in the neighborhood of Shaghour.
Security personnel were informed of the incident the next day by residents and, following an investigation, learned that the red car was initially owned by a woman from Kesrouan, who later sold it to a Sidon resident affiliated with the Resistance Brigades.
They also discovered that the car had been previously parked near the scene of security incidents and sit-ins around Sidon and Abra.
A security source told The Daily Star that the red car had been seen recently cruising the streets of Abra during a sit-in organized by supporters of Assir near the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque.
The drivers of the Kia had asked security forces to move their vehicle, which was blocking the road leading to the sit-in site, so that they could park in its place, according to the source.
The same day, in the Villat neighborhood near Ain al-Hilweh, Resistance Brigades members Mohammad H., an Egyptian national, and Lebanese Mahmoud A. fired shots in the air to provoke the former’s son-in-law over a personal dispute.
The day before a member of the Brigades shot a fellow member over a drug-related quarrel.
Sources in Sidon said these types of security incidents occurred almost daily, suggesting the group is becoming more confident in their authority in the city and are undeterred by police.
Sources also said there was reason to believe the group might be plotting more incidents to strengthen their hold over the city, especially as they were rumored to have begun recruiting hundreds of young men from Sidon, the Taamir neighborhood of Ain al-Hilweh, the refugee camp itself and the neighborhood of Villat.
The young men recruited comprised different nationalities, including Syrian, Palestinian, Egyptian and Lebanese.
The allegation that the Resistance Brigades is strategizing to consolidate its authority gained more credence when it recently amassed new and more sophisticated weaponry.
Sources said the weapons posed a great danger to residents, given the fact that the men who owned them often drove around the city in cars with fake license plates and tinted windows.
Whether the change in behavior on the part of the Resistance Brigades reflects direct orders from its patron, Hezbollah, remains unclear.
The sources said there appear to be two possibilities behindthe increase in activities: Either the brigades have been ordered to spread chaos in Sidon by the resistance party or the group itself is fragmenting.
The Resistance Brigades was formed by supporters of Hezbollah in Sidon. Many of the group’s members are reportedly unemployed or have a criminal record.