BEIRUT: Lebanese officials condemned attacks on the Army and security forces in Arsal Sunday, stressing the need to support the Army in the crucial battle against terrorism.
“The persistence of terrorist crimes that are supported by foreign cover and internal justification is an indicator of the imminent danger targeting Lebanon," said Hezbollah, referring to allegations that the party's involvement in Syria prompted the terrorist attack on Arsal.
Hezbollah called on Lebanese people to stop searching for justifications for the actions of terrorist groups, urging citizens to stand united in the face of terrorism.
“We express the highest degrees of appreciation to the military institution and support for all the steps that they take,” said Hezbollah in a statement released Sunday.
Hezbollah also extended condolences to the Army for officers lost during the battles, wishing a quick recovery to those who were wounded.
Hezbollah ascertained its stand with the Lebanon Army in facing imminent dangers that threaten Lebanon’s unity, independence and stability.
“By observing their responsibilities and preventing terrorists from violating the sovereignty of the country, the Army proves the purity of this responsibility and their commitment to the homeland,” the party added.
Future Movement's secretary-general Ahmad Hariri said that Arsal alongside the Lebanese Army were facing “the scourges of Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria”, condemning the party for “their insistence on bringing the flame of extremism to Lebanon”
Hariri lauded Arsal resident’s “heroic stand beside legitimate Lebanese Institutions in fighting off the militants.”
Hariri assured that Arsal would remain in the custody of the Lebanese state, the Army and security forces, stressing that the border town would not be left to anyone who wants to tamper with its security.
“Despite all the unjust campaigns, [Arsal remains] firm in its national place as an environment suitable for Lebanese legitimacy and moderation” said Hariri.
Hariri aslo hailed Arsal for its resilience in confronting terrorism on behalf of all the Lebanese, adding that the resident’s confrontations with militants aimed at thwarting malicious plans that intend implicate Lebanon in an extremist battlefield.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi expressed his belief that the solution in Arsal would not be reached militarily but politically, stressing the need to distance the country from the “volcano that is surrounding us.”
Rifi added that any solution that falls outside the framework of the state would only aggravate the crisis.
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt said that supporting the Lebanese Army gains primacy over internal conflict and hollow considerations, stressing that the “sole mission should be [expressing] solidarity and support with the Lebanese Army and security forces in the face of armed groups and Takfirism.”
Jumblatt said that today, more than ever, the nation is endangered by armed groups and closed minded Takfiri thinking, pointing out that security forces are the sole guarantee to the country’s safety.
“There is no haven or escape for us,” he said, stressing that salvation would only come “through supporting the state, and especially the Army.”
Jumblatt saluted members of the Army who were killed in Arsal Saturday, lauding the border town’s residents for supporting the armed forces in their fight against the militant groups.
The Socialist head also hailed the security forces sacrifices during battles in Tripoli and Sidon, expressing his belief that the security situation could only be resolved with a swift election of a president.
“I wish you we could all stop the hollow political debate about the presidency which is taking place from time to time, so that we can get to the election of the president of the republic and install the foundations of the state and state obligations,” he said.
In a later statement, Jumblatt stressed that Hezbollah’s interference in Syria is not what brought ISIS to Lebanon, adding that Hezbollah’s men are sacrificing their lives in Syria.
Hezbollah MP Nawwaf Musawi condemned the vicious attack that took place against Lebanon and that targeted the Lebanese Army and security forces in Arsal, pointing out that the aggression “surprised all Lebanese today, in pictures that provoked them when they saw the assault on their national dignity, because they realized that the threat that was trivialized by some became imminent and would soon reach their own homes.”
Musawi said he was confident that Lebanese people of different political backgrounds now feel the “magnitude of the threat that [Hezbollah] was talking about.”
The Hezbollah MP called on all political forces to resolve political differences and to stand united behind the Lebanese Army, adding that any attempt to undermine the Army is also an attempt to eliminate the presence of Lebanon.
“Everyone in Lebanon now knows that had we [Hezbollah] not done what we did when we appointed ourselves to defend Lebanon and the resistance then our situation today would have been like Arsal. Security forces, governmental institutions and the Lebanese Army would have been subject to attacks everywhere ... for this reason we are proud to be pioneers in evaluating the size of the Takfiri threat,” he concluded.
Tripoli MP Mohammad Kabbara condemned the attacks on Arsal, arguing that the conflict is a regional plot aimed at subjugating the Sunni sect in the region.
“What is happening in the heroic Sunni Arsal is nothing but an episode in the Syrian-Iranian series of subjecting the Sunni people,” said Kabbara during a meeting in his Tripoli residence.
“We are warning of transforming the Army from a national institution whose duty is to protect all the Lebanese in to one resembling Al-Maliki’s Army” he added, referring to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has been criticized for policies favoring the Shiite constituency in Iraq.
The MP rejected the use of Sunni families as human shields to protect Hezbollah and Iran, asserting that “had the Army deployed along the border sooner then the country would not have got to where it is today.”
Kabbara urged Hezbollah to cease from firing rockets at Arsal, arguing that continued fire would prevent the militant’s withdrawal.
For his part, Kataeb Party Head Amine Gemayel stressed that the unity of the Lebanese people is what ensures the stability of the country.
Gemayel added that only through the solidarity of the Lebanese people will citizens challenge the Takfiri call, stressing that Lebanon can’t drift in to such a mentality.
Gemayel considered Takfiri terrorism to a foreign element with regards to Lebanon, saying that it is “a germ that can’t settle in any town or village.”
The Kataeb head also expressed his confidence in the victory of the Lebanese Army saying that “without a doubt the Army will win as long as the people rally around them.”
Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said that “what is happening in Arsal is an armed foreign terrorist force’s occupation of a Lebanese town.”
Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil called for solidarity with the Army, calling on the Government to provide full moral and political cover as well as financial support required by the Army to carry out their duties.
Tensions have risen dramatically in the Bekaa Valley after an Army arrest of a Syrian militant sparked a standoff Saturday afternoon in Arsal, with armed men laying siege to government facilities in the border town, demanding the release of the captive.
At least 10 Lebanese soldiers were killed in clashes with gunmen that continued overnight in and around the border town of Arsal near Syria, security sources told The Daily Star.