BEIRUT: A humanitarian aid convoy traveling to Arsal from the central Bekaa Valley was prevented from reaching its destination by residents of Labweh.
The aid organization Ighatheyya (Relief), which coordinates care for Syrian refugees across Lebanon, organized the passage of 12 trucks to Arsal with the Lebanese Army.The convoy, which was carrying bread, water and medical supplies, left the Bekaa Valley town of Taalabaya around noon Wednesday.
The aid was to be distributed in Arsal, where thousands of people, both Lebanese citizens and Syrian refugees, have been trapped since militants overran the town Saturday, sparking bloody battles with the Army.
When the trucks reached Labweh, just 7 kilometers from Arsal, they were stopped by residents of the town. “They said they would not let us pass,” said Jihan Kaisi, a humanitarian worker who was riding with the convoy.
Some of the Labweh residents were brandishing weapons, while others threw rocks at the convoy, she added.
Labweh residents say that militants responsible for launching rockets on their town over the past year have taken refuge in Arsal.
The mayor of Labweh, Ramez Amhaz, told reporters that residents had blocked the aid convoy because they were suspicious of its destination. “The state does not exist in Arsal. Who is this aid headed to? It may fall in the hands of the Nusra Front or the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria,” he said.
Kaisi was outraged by the allegations, however. “We were bringing food, water, bread for people, for homeless families, to Arsal,” she said.
The convoy was coordinated closely with the Lebanese Army, she added, and some 200 soldiers had accompanied the trucks.
Kaisi lauded the Army, which prevented the standoff in Labweh from escalating. “The Lebanese Army were around us protecting us from their [Labweh residents’] anger,” she said.
Aside from food and water, Kaisi said that the convoy was bringing much-needed medical supplies to the town. “The hospital is out of medicine. These were life-saving supplies, and now they won’t get them,” she said.
“I’m shocked. I have been working in the field of humanitarian relief for 15 years and I’ve never seen anything like this.”