BEIRUT: Hundreds of policemen will fan out across Beirut’s southern suburbs Monday, in a move welcomed by Hezbollah, pushing back against accusations of “self security” leveled against the party by detractors.
About 800 security personnel will gather at the ISF headquarters in Ouzai at 5 p.m. Monday before spreading out into the suburbs, known as Dahiyeh, a security source told The Daily Star.
“Hezbollah liberated southern Lebanon and has never imposed ‘self-security’ measures,” Sheikh Nabil Qaouk, a high-ranking official in the party, told a crowd in the southern town of Ain Qana Sunday. “ Hezbollah has repeatedly said it is not a substitute for the state or the security services.”
“Preserving security throughout Lebanon is the responsibility and the duty of the state, and the security of Dahiyeh and its inhabitants cannot be neglected,” he said.
“Since the first explosion [in Bir al-Abed], Hezbollah has been calling on the state to fulfill its responsibility by enforcing security and protecting residents,” he said, referring to a car bomb that exploded in a parking lot on July 9 wounding 50 people.
“The security plan today reflects the will and demands of Hezbollah,” which will do everything in its power to ensure its success, he concluded.
According to the plan laid out by caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, the ISF will erect checkpoints to replace those run by Hezbollah, which enacted its own security measures following a series of attacks targeting areas controlled by the party. Hezbollah’s checkpoints have choked traffic and sparked accusations from some corners of “self security” and militia-like behavior after several individuals were detained for questioning.
In statements published Sunday, Charbel admitted Hezbollah had stepped in when the state was “unable to provide such security,” but made clear that he expected them to stand down after the security forces deploy.“The deployment of the Lebanese security forces should end the presence of any checkpoints manned by civilians,” he said in comments published Sunday. “Once the security forces start their mission, all other party members will withdraw.”
The minister went on to warn that “self-security measures could lead to strife if it goes on in Beirut’s southern suburbs or any other Lebanese region.”
Charbel also warned of “information about plans to plant explosives in more than one region” of Lebanon in an interview with Lebanese state television.
“The security plan that will be implemented in the southern suburbs will relieve both the citizen and the state, and will be carried out in coordination with all political forces,” he said, adding that security personnel would be conducting searches of “suspicious cars and people.”
“As a state, we must anticipate, to the extent that we can, and carry out preemptive measures before the crime occurs,” Charbel told Tele Liban. “These checkpoints will remain as long as they are needed.”
For his part, Hezbollah MP and head of the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc Mohammad Raad said Sunday that Hezbollah was “the first to welcome” the deployment of Internal Security Forces in the southern suburbs.
“After the Ruwaiss bombing, the state security apparatus was unable at the time to fulfill its role by ensuring the security and stability of our people in the suburbs,” Raad said, speaking at a memorial service in Qaaqaiet al-Jisr. “Therefore, we took some preliminary safety measures until the state could start fulfilling its duties.”
Raad hit back at the party’s critics, accusing them of “wishing the Resistance and its people ill” and of “creating a fertile environment for the terrorists and takfiris who sent the car bomb.”
“The authorities have informed us that they are ready to take over security functions and preserve stability in the suburbs, and we are the first welcoming this and the security plan, which we hope will prove successful,” said Raad, expressing the readiness of the party and “its people” to cooperate with security forces.
MP Ali Fayyad, also a member of the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc, struck a more conciliatory tone than Raad, calling for dialogue among political rivals “far from foreign wagers targeting the resistance and the stability of the country.”
“It would be dangerous for a domestic group to become a Trojan horse for foreign projects that do not want the good of this country,” Fayyad said. “The Americans in particular will try to deal with Lebanon using the same mentality with which they deal with Syria, and if that happens, it will constitute a threat to the political and physical security of Lebanon.”
Future Movement MP Mohammad Hajjar voiced his support for the new security plan, but made clear his disapproval of Hezbollah’s tactics, telling Al-Jadeed TV: “We are against self-security to begin with.”
“The solution must come from a single authority, the authority of the state,” Hajjar said, adding that “the state alone is responsible for security, and not any other party or political power.”
“Anyone who resorts to self security is trying to undermine the state and its authority,” he emphasized, adding that while he supported the security plan, “we have to see how it will be implemented on the ground.”
Hajjar also expressed hope that there would not be a repetition of the deadly bombings that struck Dahiyeh and Tripoli, and that “no area is overlooked,” possibly referring to calls by some Tripoli politicians for a similar security plan following last month’s deadly twin bombings in that city.
Caretaker Youth and Sports Minister Faysal Karami joined calls for Tripoli to receive the same attention from security forces as the southern suburbs, asking, “Is what happened in Tripoli any less serious than what happened in Dahiyeh?”
“The people of Tripoli have a right to ask: Why is it that every time we ask for security measures that require personnel and authority, we are told that there are not enough personnel and that the authority requires [political] cover from the de facto forces [on the ground], and that we must make do with what we have?”