BEIRUT: Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said over the weekend that unauthorized checkpoints in the Bekaa Valley were removed ahead of the expansion of the government's new security plan to the area this week.
"There are no longer unofficial checkpoints along the road to Arsal and all unofficial armed forces are no longer present in the Baalbek-Hermel areas,” Machnouk said in a statement, referring to Hezbollah checkpoints set up to curb the rise of car bombings in Bekaa Valley towns.
Hezbollah has taken measures in Hermel, Baalbek and other Bekaa Valley towns following a series of bombings targeting predominantly Shiite areas. The attacks were mostly claimed by radical groups fighting in Syria, citing the group's role in the war-torn country.
Hezbollah's security measures have angered nearby Sunni towns, particularly residents in Arsal who largely support the Syrian opposition, fueling tensions in the border region.
The National News Agency reported that the Lebanese Army took full control of a vital highway connecting Arsal to Baalbek-Hermel in the northern Bekaa Valley in preparation of the security plan and took over checkpoints set up by armed groups.
Machnouk said he contacted several local and official figures from Arsal and the Bekaa Valley town of Labweh as part of ongoing preparations ahead of the plan.
The Cabinet recently approved a plan drafted by the Higher Defense Council to restore stability to Tripoli, which has been plagued by several rounds of clashes between opponents and supporters of President Bashar Assad, as well as Akkar and the Bekaa Valley.
The measures include heavy deployment in conflicts zones and pursuing wanted individuals. The security plan was first implemented in Tripoli starting April 1, and the Army, along with the Internal Security Forces, has so far arrested over 100 suspects.
Speaking after meeting with Patriarch Beshara Rai in Bkirki late Saturday, Machnouk spoke of the plan’s success in Tripoli, saying the capital would also witness similar measures.
"We affirm that the security plan is going as planned with the support of the president, the prime minister and the courage of the Army,” Machnouk told reporters.
“We are all fully responsible for the failure or success of the plan which has so far proven to be a success,” he added.
“Implementation of the plan in the northern Bekaa will soon begin and they will end in Beirut. We will end violations against the Lebanese, their security and livelihood particularly in light of repeated abductions [in the Bekaa],” he said.