BEIRUT: Lebanese authorities said Friday they will dispatch government forces to Beirut’s Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs next week to carry out security checks, replacing the party's new checkpoints erected to stop threats after a spate of attacks.
“Starting Monday, security agencies will almost certainly be in Beirut’s southern suburbs to preserve security on its own,” caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told reporters during a news conference.
The heavy deployment will lessen tensions that have escalated as a result of checkpoints manned by Hezbollah members who were apprehending people and inspecting their vehicles, Charbel said.
Speaking to The Daily Star, Charbel said Hezbollah was eager to have the state restore and preserve security in these areas.
“ Hezbollah cannot wait to have the state deploy in these places and their members will certainly retreat and allow us to take over,” he said.
Hezbollah's MP Mohammad Raad said last week residents of the capital’s southern suburbs have repeatedly urged security agencies to protect the areas but appeals for help have fallen on deaf ears.
Hezbollah began implementing self-security measures in its Beirut strongholds and south Lebanon after two car bombs ripped through the southern suburbs, killing and wounding dozens.
Several officials including Charbel have said that the state was incapable of deploying security forces nationwide given security concerns on the border with Syria and domestic tensions over the ongoing political deadlock.
The minister said the southern region was not part of the security plan in Hezbollah’s strongholds “because the southern suburbs of Beirut face major security problems.”
Charbel said the government forces to deploy in southern Beirut will include members of the police, the Army and General Security and that he had called for instating 2,000 additional policemen from the Internal Security Forces’ reserve.
Hezbollah has come under fire from its rivals in the March 14 coalition who say the party’s independent security policies defy the state’s authority and are an attempt to control the country.
Critics say such measures could prompt other armed groups to carry out their own security plans given the volatile security conditions in the country.
Charbel also reiterated his rejection of Hezbollah’s measures, saying: “In principle, self-security is rejected and these are issues that we are working on resolving.”
A security source told The Daily Star that authorities were mulling a plan to deploy a security team to replace that of Hezbollah’s while Al-Akhbar newspaper reported Friday that there several proposals on the table.
The Lebanese Army said Friday it is maintaining its own security measures to combat bombings in Beirut including street patrols, checkpoints and monitoring movements of cars and people.
The Army also said it has taken a series of measures in coordination with other security agencies and officials in greater Beirut areas.
These measures would see the governor's office issuing identification cards to vehicle owners, having private security firms at commercial complexes inspect vehicles and coordinating with religious figures to prevent vehicles from parking near churches and mosques.