BEIRUT: The municipalities of North Lebanon’s area of Dinnieh held a rally Wednesday in solidarity with the Lebanese Army, which has been battling Al-Qaeda-linked militants from Syria in the border town of Arsal for the past five days.
Speakers underscored the need to rally around the military institution, calling upon rival political forces and communities to set their differences aside for the sake of safeguarding national unity.
“Our belief in the Army stems from our belief in the nation, which comes after belief in God, and before allegiance to any religion, or sect or community,” said Mohammad Saadiyeh, head of the Union of Dinnieh’s municipalities, at the rally held in the village of Seer.
Branding the Army as the “sole remaining bastion" that is keeping the state from collapsing, Saadiyeh urged politicians and party leaders to extend total, unconditional and exclusive support to the military in its fight against terrorism.
Seer’s mayor, Ahmad Alam, cautioned that the Army is “the backbone of national authority, society and legitimacy, without which the temple would collapse and chaos and terrorism prevail.”
Five days of fighting pitting the Army against jihadists who overrun Arsal from Syria, has so far claimed the lives of 17 soldiers. An estimated 50 militants and 12 civilians have also been killed in the violence, according to security sources.
The mountainous area of Dinnieh was the scene of a 1999 uprising by Sunni militant movement, Takfir wal-Hijra, in one of the first serious armed manifestations of Muslim extremists in Lebanon. At the time the Army crushed the rebellion in five days of fighting, during which several troops were killed and the militants stamped out.