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Lebanon Army to strike with iron fist: Kahwagi
Lebanese soldiers on armored vehicles patrol the area after clashes that left four people dead in the Western Bekaa village of Suweiri, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013. (The Daily Star/Stringer)
Lebanese soldiers on armored vehicles patrol the area after clashes that left four people dead in the Western Bekaa village of Suweiri, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013. (The Daily Star/Stringer)
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BEIRUT: Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi pledged to strike saboteurs with an iron fist in the wake of a weekend clash in the Western Bekaa that killed six people.

“I gave clear military units deployed on the ground orders to deal sternly with shooters from both sides,” Kahwagi told the local daily As-Safir in remarks published Monday.

“The Army will not be complacent in preserving peace and will strike with an iron fist,” he vowed.

The military ended Sunday a clash between two families in the Western Bekaa village of Suweiri that left six dead and several others wounded, raising fears of sectarian violence in the village.

Backed by armored vehicles, the Army closed off the entrances of the village and blocked both highway lanes linking Rashaya to the Masnaa border crossing with Syria.

The fighting started Saturday with an argument between Sayyed Janbayn and Ali Chouman inside the village butcher shop.

Janbayn smashed the glass of Chouman’s car, at which point the latter opened fire using a pistol. Clashes swiftly escalated and involved members of both families.

President Michel Sleiman discussed the situation in Suweiri with the relevant officials, saying he was at ease over security measures to restore peace and order in the village, a statement from his office said.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said authorities “must deal firmly with those involved in the bloodshed regardless of their religion or political affiliations."

"What happened in Suweiri is unacceptable,” he told As-Safir in remarks published Monday.

The political head of Al Jamaa Al Islamiya in the Bekaa, Ali Abu Yassin, blamed the caretaker government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati for the fighting.

“What happened in Suweiri ... was due to the lack of state prestige where people take up arms [against others], fire and commit crimes in broad daylight even for trivial or personal reasons,” Abu Yassin told Al-Fajr radio station.

He urged authorities to "act decisively and quickly" to bring the culprits to justice and ward off sectarian violence.

On his part, Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat said that the Suweiri clash should be an alarm sounding the weak security situation in Lebanon.

“The clash should push officials to adopt calm political rhetoric, organize their disputes, and form a national government that includes all forces,” Jumblatt said in his weekly statement to PSP-affiliated al-Anbaa website.

“If the Syrian crisis, social and economic problems, the case of Syrian refugees, constant Israeli threats, upcoming presidential election, the Suweiri clash, and terrorist bombings are not enough reasons to form a new government, then I do not know what is,” he said.

He added that the new government must enjoy the greatest possible consensus.

Jumblatt also urged officials to separate Lebanon's fate from the developments in Syria.

“Why should the Lebanese constantly depend on foreign developments to determine their fate? Hasn't Lebanon paid enough price over the decades for this dependence?” he said.

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