BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman urged the country’s military and security officials Sunday to take measures to protect Lebanese towns and villages near the border with Syria from rocket attacks.
“The protection of Lebanese areas and their residents against any attack by any group should be a priority,” Sleiman tweeted.
The president’s remarks come two days after a volley of rockets fired from Syrian territory killed eight people, including six children, in the northeastern Lebanese town of Arsal.
The attack on Arsal came one day after a suspected suicide car bomb killed five people in the Bekaa Valley town of Hermel, a Hezbollah stronghold, in an incident directly linked to the party’s military intervention in Syria.
The predominantly Sunni Arsal, which hosts thousands of Syrian refugees and whose residents support the Syrian uprising, accused Hezbollah of firing rockets on the town that led to eight fatalities.
Hezbollah has strongly denied the charge, while the Lebanese Army said the rockets were fired from Syria.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai said the latest security incidents – including car bombings that killed former Finance Minister Mohammad Shatah in Downtown Beirut on Dec. 27 and left five dead and over 70 wounded in the southern suburb of Haret Hreik on Jan. 2 – threatened to push the country into “a dangerous crossroads.”
“The painful security incidents that happened recently portend a dangerous crossroads that threatens to take the crisis out of the hands of those who think they control it,” Rai said in a sermon Sunday after Mass in a church in Bkirki.
“Let’s always pray for God in order to protect our country and all the citizens. Let’s continue our prayers for the success of the Geneva II conference [on Syria] and for peace in Syria and the region and putting an end to wars and conflicts,” he added.
Calling for unity within the Christian community, Rai said:
“We are praying for the sake of unity of citizens in Lebanon and the Middle East countries. Let them overcome differences and conflicts through dialogue and understanding.”