BEIRUT: Leading Lebanese figures continued to weigh in Monday on the crisis in Syria in light of the looming threat of U.S. airstrikes.
Walid Jumblatt called on Lebanese parties to extract themselves from the “Syrian quagmire,” while singling out Hezbollah for “turning its rifle far from Israel” when its role should be restricted to defending the southern border of Lebanon.
“Today we see the tyranny displayed by the Syrian regime toward its own people with unprecedented killing and criminality,” Jumblatt said in his weekly interview with his party’s newspaper, Al-Anbaa.
“It is impossible to compromise or reach a middle solution with tyranny,” he stated. “Therefore, there can be no solution to the Syrian crisis except by an international, regional agreement leading to the removal of President Bashar Assad and his officers from power.”
For his part, senior Hezbollah official Sheikh Nabil Qaouq, had an entirely different message, slamming regional and international intervention in Syria and warning of Israeli attempts to exploit the crisis “to compensate for its defeats in 2000 and 2006.”
Speaking at a graduation ceremony for top students in the village of Houla, Qaouq went on to say that “Israel is betting on the destruction of Syria because through this it wants to besiege and weaken the resistance.”
Qaouq accused the United States, Israel and takfiri groups – extremists who exclude anyone not adhering to their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam – of striking an alliance to drag Syria and Lebanon into a sectarian civil war similar to Iraq’s, and slammed the Arab countries which would “prefer to destroy Damascus over Tel Aviv.”
“And while we cannot ignore the Israeli threats and danger, because we are keen to protect the homeland and the achievements of the Resistance, we find that March 14 is still determined to bet on an attack on Syria, and to promote the rhetoric of strife and sectarian incitement,” he continued. “They, however, inserted themselves into the Syrian crisis since the beginning by turning the Lebanese border into a channel for weapons and fighters targeting Syria, and who are now counting on a foreign aggression to destroy Syria.”
Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, the head of the Higher Islamic Shiite Council, meanwhile, appealed to Syrians to unite for their sakes, warning: “If the arrogant world powers become entangled in Syria it will be a catastrophe, because they will destroy Syria without distinguishing between loyalists and opposition.”
“We must all protect Syria ... from the fate suffered by Palestine, which was ravaged over 60 years ago when global imperialism turned it over to the Jews,” he said during his daily address at the council’s headquarters.
“I ask Arabs and Muslims to preserve Syria and support dialogue between all Syrian people, and for Syria to learn from the wars, aggressions and conspiracies that affected Lebanon and its people,” he said.
Also Monday, a number of Leftist and Palestinian parties gathered in front of the ESCWA building in Beirut to protest Western military threats against Syria.
Parties present included the Lebanese Communist Party, the People’s Movement, the Popular Nasserist Organization, the Popular Democratic Party, the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Lebanese People’s Party.
Demonstrators held signs exhorting to the United Nations to break free of the “American beast,” decrying any form of foreign intervention and calling for a political solution to the Syrian crisis.
Following the protest, Najah Wakim, head of the People’s Movement, released two messages to address to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, and the head of the Arab League, Nabil Elarabi.
In the parties’ message to Ban, they insisted that a military assault on Syria would have no “legal or moral justification,” especially when the special team send by the U.N. to investigate the use of chemical weapons has yet to conclude its mission and present its findings.
In the second message, the parties rebuked the Arab League for providing political cover for military action against Syria despite strong opposition worldwide.
Separately, a delegation of activists held a news conference at the Golden Plaza in Beirut to condemn the “massacres being committed by [opposition] fighters in Syria,” accusing the armed Syrian opposition of targeting religious minorities and possessing chemical weapons.