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Lebanon News

Tripoli’s security plan a success, so far

  • Lebanese soldiers on armored personnel carrier patrol the area in Tripoli, Wednesday, April 2, 2014. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

Tripoli has become a safe city. Its alleyways, streets and neighborhoods, the same ones that have seen numerous rounds of intense fighting and were an open field for killing and destruction, today seem to be a place of harmony and peace. Residents of Jabal Mohsen have gone over to Bab al-Tabbaneh, where they were received with flowers. Political and military sources point out that the security plan carried out by the Army appears to be confined to raiding the homes of wanted men, particularly Sheikh Omar Bakri, who is currently on run, as well as militia leaders.

Their work has also involved bulldozing bunkers and concrete blockades, which were initially set up by gunmen at the entrances to some of the neighborhoods. Residents appeared tranquil and without worries once the operation was complete.

According to the sources, the Army had a list of warehouses where weapons and ammunition were being kept as well as a plan of action to raid them. But when the time came, the Army was unable to find any weapons, not a single bullet, gun or knife. Sources speculate that the reason might be that the plan was announced publicly, giving gunmen time to plan their escape and move their stockpiles.

The same sources believe that the five days that separated the announcement of the raids and their execution was enough time for gunmen to transport a large amount of weapons to an alternative location and escape.

The sources confirmed that the types of weapons being used were large in number and of varying calibers. The Army will now storm suspected weapons warehouses without notice to locate the stockpile, which is believed to cost millions of dollars and include modern types of guns and cannons. For now, the location of the weapons is unknown.

Sources believe that militia leaders wanted by the judiciary, whose homes have been raided, may have moved to Wadi Khaled or to Palestinian refugee camps in south Lebanon. As for pro-Assad figure and former MP Ali Eid, he is, according to the sources, in Syria, but the whereabouts of his son Rifaat Eid has yet to be confirmed. He could have fled to the United States, the sources speculated, as he carries an American passport.

There are also no confirmed reports about the fate of Amid Hammoud, a retired Army officer who was funding and arming a number of young men. He also vanished before the security plan was implemented.

The sources have also noted the disappearance of Syrian fundamentalists who had rented offices in Bab al-Tabbaneh and other areas in north Lebanon.

Sources said that neither the Army nor the Internal Security Forces came under attack during the raids or at any point while the security plan was being implemented.

Not giving the Army political cover, the sources said, would be the only way the security situation in Tripoli could deteriorate once more. They also warned of the return of sectarian slogans and speeches in places of worship. The biggest winners of the security plan are the residents of Tripoli and north Lebanon, while its biggest losers are clearly the gunmen who abandoned their abode. Nevertheless, the wealth they gained from the successive rounds of violence is still very much in one piece.

The sources believe that the implementation of the security plan has ended tensions between Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, as it would be difficult for both parties to return to the front line. The sources say the disappearance of Ali and Rifaat Eid is by far the plan’s greatest achievement, as both are burdened with criminal charges that could soon lead to measures preventing them from returning to Jabal Mohsen as leaders of the Alawites, or even to Lebanon. Their departure has led to a softening in the stances in Bab al-Tabbaneh, and from certain political and religious figures in Tripoli who had been calling for the arrest of the Alawite figures.

Concerning the campaign that has been waged against the Army by MPs and religious figures in north Lebanon, sources believe that they were aimed to distract and confuse the military institution, so that Tripoli fighters who had escaped from Qalaat al-Hosn, no less than 150 out of 400, could return safely to the city without objection from the security forces.

The sources say that few objected to the security plan, and that Salafist Sheikh Dai al-Islam al-Shahhal’s criticisms have become less vociferous, as these leaders had initially doubted the seriousness of the plan.

According to the sources, the Cabinet’s plan has improved prospects for political moderation in Tripoli and north Lebanon, as political figures that were responsible for causing strife were forced to leave.

They also believe that in the next few days, the city will witness less Army presence and the withdrawal of a number of units, as the military moves toward the Bekaa Valley to implement the plan there, which requires the deployment of approximately 3,000 soldiers from the 12th Brigade.

Tripoli figures also stressed that if a wide development plan, covering the entire city and providing jobs for residents, was not put in place once security returns, the northern capital could see the return of violence.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 04, 2014, on page 4.
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Summary

Tripoli has become a safe city.

Political and military sources point out that the security plan carried out by the Army appears to be confined to raiding the homes of wanted men, particularly Sheikh Omar Bakri, who is currently on run, as well as militia leaders.

Not giving the Army political cover, the sources said, would be the only way the security situation in Tripoli could deteriorate once more.

The biggest winners of the security plan are the residents of Tripoli and north Lebanon, while its biggest losers are clearly the gunmen who abandoned their abode.

Concerning the campaign that has been waged against the Army by MPs and religious figures in north Lebanon, sources believe that they were aimed to distract and confuse the military institution, so that Tripoli fighters who had escaped from Qalaat al-Hosn, no less than 150 out of 400, could return safely to the city without objection from the security forces.

According to the sources, the Cabinet's plan has improved prospects for political moderation in Tripoli and north Lebanon, as political figures that were responsible for causing strife were forced to leave.


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