BEIRUT: The deployment of Army troops and policemen in the Hezbollah stronghold of Beirut’s southern suburbs, which swiftly led to the elimination of the party’s checkpoints, evoked a popular and political satisfaction Tuesday, including from the Future Movement.
General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim toured the southern suburbs Tuesday, a day after his personnel joined Army troops and the Internal Security Forces to deploy in the area in line with a security plan prepared by the Interior Ministry to protect residents following a string of bomb attacks.
Ibrahim said General Security personnel were ready to deploy in the north if ordered by caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel.
“General Security is present on all Lebanese territories. Why the surprise over its participation in the southern suburbs’ checkpoints?” Ibrahim told reporters during an inspection tour of the area. He said his tour was designed to merely check on the morale of military personnel.
“We are an apparatus affiliated with the Interior Ministry and implement the part pertaining to us irrespective of the area,” Ibrahim said. “We will go to any area in Lebanon. If the interior minister decides that we go to the north, we are ready to go.”
The Future Movement’s parliamentary bloc said the smooth deployment of Lebanese security forces in the southern suburbs amounted to “Hezbollah’s acknowledgement” of the failure of its own security measures enforced by the party members in the past few weeks following two deadly car bombings in the densely populated area.
“The Future bloc welcomes the deployment of official security forces in Beirut’s southern suburbs. This step constitutes a frank acknowledgement by Hezbollah of the failure of the self-imposed security experience and the inevitable return of this issue [security] to the Lebanese state, especially since these forces have the exclusive and sole right to carry arms and use them when necessary in order to apply the law and maintain the citizens’ security,” the bloc said in a statement after its weekly meeting chaired by former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
“This step, in its essence, constitutes the second experience following the Army deployment in the south in 2006 which has undoubtedly proved that there is no legitimacy except for the Lebanese state’s institutions and the oversight and accountability of constitutional institutions and citizens,” the statement said.
Clearly referring to self-imposed security measures enforced by rival militias and parties during the 1975-90 Civil War, the bloc added: “All illegitimate security experiences had proved their failure and had been rejected by the Lebanese people.”
Over 1,000 personnel from the Army, the ISF and General Security fanned out in the southern suburbs Monday in line with the Interior Ministry’s security plan, which aims to replace Hezbollah’s own security measures enforced following a string of attacks targeting the predominantly Shiite area.
Most local residents who spoke to The Daily Star welcomed the deployment of security and Army personnel in the area.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah praised the deployment and called on residents to fully cooperate with security forces.
In a televised speech Monday night while the security plan was being carried out in the suburbs, Nasrallah reiterated that Hezbollah’s own security measures had been prompted by the state’s inability to provide protection to residents.
A car bombing killed 30 people and wounded over 300 others in the Ruwaiss neighborhood in the southern suburbs on Aug. 15. A similar explosion wounded more than 50 people in the Bir al-Abed neighborhood on July 9.
Hezbollah has come under fire mainly from March 14 lawmakers and politicians for enforcing “self-security” in areas under its control in the southern suburbs, the Bekaa Valley and the south, especially after several individuals were detained at party checkpoints.
Hezbollah officials have struck back in recent days, defending the party’s security measures to protect areas under its control and publicly praising the government’s security plan.
In its statement, the Future bloc said the government was responsible for the success of “this advanced step” in the southern suburbs by not showing leniency toward any violations.
“Maintaining the state’s prestige and dignity and achieving the citizens’ security and stability is the right path to regain the citizens’ confidence in the legitimate security forces,” it said.
Noting that residents in the southern suburbs have rejected the self-security experience, the bloc called on security forces to fully carry out their mission, crack down on violations and arrest wanted people, particularly the four Hezbollah members indicted in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Hezbollah, which has denounced the indictment issued by the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, has refused to hand over the four suspects.
The bloc called for spreading “this positive step” in the southern suburbs to other areas, namely Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon, Tyre and Baalbek in order to tackle security problems faced by these cities. It also said it was ready to accept President Michel Sleiman’s call for the resumption of the National Dialogue Committee, stalled since September 2012.
The Army deployment in the southern suburbs was also praised by the March 14 Secretariat General.
“The Secretariat General again reaffirmed the significance of the presence only of the state and its institutions. It calls on the security forces to boost their effective presence in order to protect our people in Beirut’s southern suburbs as in other Lebanese areas,” the group said in a statement after its meeting.
It added that the deployment in the southern suburbs was “a normal gateway” of the right of security forces to have monopoly over the use of arms in all Lebanese territories.
Future MP Khoder Habib said he hoped that the security plan enforced in the southern suburbs would be extended to all Lebanese territories.
“The security deployment [in the southern suburbs] has confirmed that there is no substitute for the security of military institutions, while it proved the failure of self security,” Habib told the Voice of Lebanon radio station.