BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Residents flee Bekaa village after Syrian Army warning

File - A general view of the village of Tfail, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. (The Daily Star/Nidal Solh)

BEIRUT: Around 10 families remained in Tfail Sunday evening, one day after residents received a warning to evacuate because the Syrian army would soon shell the village in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

A government source, who asked not to be identified, said negotiations were underway to secure the safety of the remaining residents.

The village’s mukhtar, Ali Ashoum, told The Daily Star that one of his family members had received a call on Saturday from “a Hezbollah member.”

According to Ashoum, the Hezbollah member relayed what a soldier in the Syrian Army had told him: that the village of Tfail would soon be shelled and that residents should leave by Sunday morning.

“I called my relatives in Tfail at 10 this morning to see if there was any shelling, but they told me it was calm. They were not attacked,” said Ashoum, who currently resides in a suburb of Beirut. Several of those who returned to the village are elderly, Ashoum added.

Tfail, located on a narrow strip of Lebanese territory, is surrounded to the north, east and south by Syrian lands. A crude, unpaved road connects Tfail to the Lebanese towns of Ham and Brital, located to the west.

Approximately 100 people, all Lebanese, had returned to Tfail after the village suffered heavy shelling by Hezbollah and the Syrian Army in late June, Ashoum said.

The government source said that there were “definitely some negotiations” happening to to secure the safety of the 100 Lebanese individuals still in Tfail. The source said he did not know who was involved in these talks.

“Usually these things happen in secret,” he added.

Before the June offensive, the village was home to approximately 4,000 Lebanese citizens and thousands of Syrian refugees. As Hezbollah approached from the west and the Syrian army from the east, scores of families fled the village, many seeking refuge in the northeastern Bekaa town of Arsal.

“At one point there were only three people in Tfail,” the government source said.

According to Ashoum, approximately 10 Lebanese families who fled Tfail in June have returned. Asked whether he thought they would be forced to leave once again, Ashoum said he “wouldn’t let it happen.”

The residents of mainly Sunni Tfail have been sympathetic to the Syrian opposition, and fighters are said to have sought refuge in the village and its environs.

Ashoum denied this, however, saying that the only armed elements near Tfail were Hezbollah fighters.

Over the past year, the Syrian army has repeatedly launched artillery strikes on the remote village.

Residents of Tfail have pleaded for the Lebanese Army to secure the village, a call which has gone unanswered so far.

Hezbollah and the Syrian army have been engaged in an offensive in Syria’s Qalamoun region for months, attempting to root out rebel fighters there.

After security meetings between Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk and high-ranking Hezbollah officials, a humanitarian convoy was allowed to pass through the Eastern Bekaa and deliver aid to the people of Tfail in April.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 18, 2014, on page 4.

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Summary

Around 10 families remained in Tfail Sunday evening, one day after residents received a warning to evacuate because the Syrian army would soon shell the village in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

According to Ashoum, the Hezbollah member relayed what a soldier in the Syrian Army had told him: that the village of Tfail would soon be shelled and that residents should leave by Sunday morning.

Approximately 100 people, all Lebanese, had returned to Tfail after the village suffered heavy shelling by Hezbollah and the Syrian Army in late June, Ashoum said.

As Hezbollah approached from the west and the Syrian army from the east, scores of families fled the village, many seeking refuge in the northeastern Bekaa town of Arsal.


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