Lebanon News

Charbel chairs Tripoli security meet, Hezbollah checkpoints gone

File -Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel is seen in Beirut, Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel chaired a meeting of top security officials Tuesday in an effort to draw up a security plan for Tripoli after Hezbollah turned over its checkpoints to the Army and national security forces.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Charbel said he was hopeful a deal for securing Tripoli would be reached soon. In past statements to the press, Charbel has said that the fractured political landscape of Tripoli presented serious political and logistical problems to the deployment of national security forces.

“The security plan for Tripoli consists of two parts,” the Interior Minister explained.

“The first is for the Lebanese Army to separate the warring sides in Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, and the second is concerned with protecting Tripoli [from threats other than] traditional struggles after it was targeted by two car bombs,” he said, referring to last month’s deadly twin bombings outside the city’s Al-Salameh and Al-Taqwa mosques.

Earlier, Charbel hailed the success of the security plan to transfer security in areas controlled by Hezbollah from the party to the state.

“There are no more Hezbollah checkpoints on Lebanese territory,” he triumphantly announced just before the meeting.

“I was informed of Hezbollah’s decision to abandon checkpoints in Nabatieh and this indeed took place [Tuesday] where security has become the responsibility of the security forces,” Charbel said.

Hezbollah handed over checkpoints in Beirut’s southern suburbs, the southern city of Nabatieh and the northern city of Baalbek to the Lebanese Army and security forces after coming under fire for implementing “self-security.” Hezbollah claims it stepped in to fill a security void by erecting checkpoints after the southern suburbs were targeted by two car bombs within two months.

Charbel has conceded in previous statements to the press that the state was unable to fulfill its duties, but Tuesday lauded the security plan implemented in Beirut’s southern suburbs, saying it is “getting better every day.”

Charbel also talked about the role of municipalities in preventing construction violations, urging mayors to call in the national police only as a last resort.

“We asked the Internal Security Forces not to get involved in the issue of constructions violations ... because the mayor, the governor and qaimaqam are responsible for handling such violations,” Charbel said.

“The mayor can ask for backup of security forces to remove a certain violation but [the mayor] is the one responsible for identifying illegal constructions in his town or village,” the minister said.

Charbel added that dealing with construction violations was taking up valuable police time, a situation that had prompted him to end the security forces’ involvement in the removal of illegal constructions except when expressly requested to do so.

He stressed, however, that dealing with construction violations on state property was the responsibility of the police alone.

The Internal Security Forces has continuously struggled to halt illegal constructions in the country, with some members of the force having suffered injuries during operations to confront violators. The penalty for illegal constructions usually entails a halt to the work at the construction site and the confiscation of machinery.

In separate remarks to An-Nahar, Charbel dismissed reports that Hezbollah had set up checkpoints around the Palestinian refugee camp of Burj al-Barajneh in Beirut’s southern suburbs.

“Only security forces’ checkpoints are around the camp,” he emphasized to the paper.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 03, 2013, on page 3.




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