BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced a $15 million donation to Arsal Monday, promising a visiting delegation help with reconstructing the ravaged northeastern town following heavy clashes between the Army and militants.
“I would like to inform you in this meeting that I am going to donate $15 million for the construction of schools, hospitals and necessary projects, which will be decided by a commission set up especially for that purpose,” Hariri told the delegation, headed by Arsal’s Mayor Ali al-Hujeiri. The delegation met with Hariri Monday afternoon in his Downtown residence.
The meeting was also attended by Future bloc lawmakers Jamal al-Jarrah, Ziad Qaderi and Amine Wehbi, in addition to Secretary-General of the Future Movement Ahmad al-Hariri and Future Movement official in Arsal Bakr al-Hujeiri.
Hariri said he would pursue all possible efforts to launch state-funded projects and services, vowing to allocate a budget to rebuild damaged houses and to improve people’s living conditions as much as possible.
“I want to assure you that we will be careful to not repeat what happened to Arsal in the future and we will do everything in our power to prevent it [from happening again].”
Hariri said that Arsal was targeted for its allegiance to former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s vision, lauding the residents for their efforts in uncovering and disrupting the plot targeting the town.
“We will not forget that Arsal’s loyal residents stood beside us the day [former Prime Minister] Rafik Hariri was martyred, nor their wide participation in the March 14 protests, and I assure you that we will reciprocate loyalty with loyalty and our stand by Arsal will continue,” he added.
Hariri praised the residents of Arsal for their support toward the Army and official state institutions, saying that Arsal locals only wished for the state to grow stronger so it could protect all of its citizens.
“We refuse that any Lebanese town or city go through what happened in Arsal,” he said, thanking God for “allowing us to go out of this crisis with the least possible amount of loss.”
Earlier this month, violent clashes erupted between the Lebanese Army and fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and the Nusra Front, some of whom were living in Arsal’s Syrian refugee camps, while others crossed from Syria. The clashes began following the Army’s arrest of Syrian militant commander Imad Ahmad Jomaa.
The fighting, which lasted for five days, resulted in a total death toll of 19 Lebanese soldiers. Militants have also taken members of the Internal Security Forces and soldiers hostage.