BEIRUT: Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil appealed Monday for immediate military support for the Lebanese Army, which is battling a group of Takfiri militants from Syria in the eastern Bekaa border town of Arsal.
Speaking at the opening of an emergency meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, Bassil said: “Lebanon appeals to you to stand on its side and asks for immediate [military] assistance for its Army in order to confront Takfiri terrorism.”
Citing rules of international law, Bassil said “it allows Lebanon to defend itself as much as it permits international support for Lebanon.”
The fighting in Arsal - which the chief of the Lebanese Army, Gen. Jean Kahwagi, described as premeditated - broke out over the weekend after the Army arrested a notorious member of Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, Imad Ahmad Jomaa, and has so far claimed the lives of 13 soldiers and at least 40 militants, heightening fears Lebanon could be dragged further into the Syrian war.
Bassil deplored that Lebanon “which had experienced Israeli terrorism,” through several wars waged by Israel since the 1982 invasion, “is now witnessing another type of terrorism, that of the Takfiri groups.”
“Terrorism has settled in Arsal, this Lebanese town, where a number of refugees who had sheltered in it, are killing and displacing its people instead of thanking them for their hospitality,” Bassil told the meeting, held to discuss Israel’s offensive on Gaza.
Bassil charged that Israeli terrorism and that of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are two sides of the same coin.
“Israeli terrorism is carried out in the name of the Jews, while ISIS Takfiri terrorism is being waged in the name of Islam,” Bassil said, arguing that “the scheme of dividing the region into sectarian entities is done to justify Israel’s Jewish entity.”
A final communiqué issued at the end of the meeting expressed support to Lebanon’s call to refer the Israeli offensive, which has claimed the lives of scores of Palestinian civilians, including children, to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“The participating ministers supported Lebanese initiatives for contacting the ICC’s Prosecutor General to start immediate investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israel against the Palestinian people,” said a statement by Lebanon’s foreign ministry.
The statement said the ministers also appealed to members of the Non-Aligned Movement who are signatories of the Rome Statute, to seriously consider filing a lawsuit with the ICC against Israel.