BEIRUT: The behavior of ISIS and the Nusra Front is threatening the lives of the more than a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said, in an implicit warning to militants holding Army soldiers captive.
“They should remember that they are placing the lives of one and half million Syrians in Lebanon in danger because of their actions and threats,” Machnouk told An-Nahar newspaper, referring to the threats by ISIS to kill the nine soldiers it is holding in three days unless the government met their demands.
“No one should think that we would remain as spectators if a Lebanese soldier or citizen was killed or executed, but at the same time we will also preserve the presence of Syrians in Lebanon.”
In a video posted on YouTube, ISIS threatened to slaughter the soldiers unless the Lebanese government acted to release Islamist detainees held in Roumieh Prison. The threat came a day after a man, claiming to be a member of the radical group, posted a picture showing the alleged beheading of a soldier.
The Lebanese Army has said it was investigating the claim.
Machnouk said that there are parties involved in the negotiation efforts to release the soldiers and police officers.
“We will not spare any effort to resolve the case of the captured soldiers, there is more than one party working on the case.”
“There is an imminent danger in Arsal and we should address and resolve it without hesitation or negligence,” he said.
The minister also spoke about the overall situation in Arsal, the border region that militants attempted to seize during the Aug. 2 clashes with the Lebanese Army, saying: “Arsal is a zone where clashes occur constantly and that requires big political decisions to regulate the presence of Syrian refugees and [search for] means to deal with the military situation.”
There are over 100,000 refugees scattered in the border region of Arsal, double the number of residents, who are known to be sympathetic to the uprising in Syria. Tensions have been high with their neighboring Bekaa towns whose residents are predominantly supporters of Hezbollah.