BEIRUT: A delegation from the government’s High Relief Committee led by Gen. Mohammad Kheir Monday visited the east Lebanon town of Arsal to assess damage sustained during five days of fierce fighting between Lebanese troops and militants from Syria.
Leading a six-man delegation, Kheir held a meeting with Arsal’s mayor, Ali Hujeiri, in the presence of Baalbek-Hermel Governor Bashir Khodor.
“We came here to inspect the situation in the town and assess the damage sustained in order to draw up a plan for compensating residents as soon as possible,” Kheir said after the meeting.
Hujeiri, who welcomed the committee at the town’s entrance, said what happened in Arsal “was expected” and that he had repeatedly warned against it.
Hujeiri called for moving the unofficial Syrian refugee camps from Arsal and relocating them outside the town’s vicinity, similar to existing refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey.
“That would help control their presence and prevent other security incidents,” Hujeiri said.
He also expressed deep appreciation on behalf of Arsal’s residents for the $15 million donation to repair destruction inflicted on the town made by Future Movement leader former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who returned to Lebanon last week after over three years of self-exile.
Jihadists from Syria’s Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria overran the border town of Arsal Aug. 2 after the arrest of Islamist commander Imad Ahmad Jomaa by the Lebanese Army.
Some 19 troops, at least 60 militants and over 15 civilians were killed in five days of clashes, which also drove thousands of Arsal’s residents and Syrian refugees to flee to safer areas.
Khodor warned that the refugee camps had proven to be “time-bombs,” stressing that “a repetition of Arsal’s incidents should not be allowed in other places.”
“The state is now present in Arsal, whose inhabitants were the victims of sheer terrorism,” Khodor said.
The militants, who withdrew from the city under an agreement brokered by the Committee of Muslim Scholars, are still holding more than 25 soldiers and members of Internal Security Forces hostage.