Both the Lebanese security forces and Hezbollah are preparing for attacks in Lebanon as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seeks to shore up its gains by establishing itself in Lebanon and attracting support from extremists, particularly in the Palestinian camps.
A senior security source was pessimistic about Lebanon’s security, telling The Daily Star that Lebanon was in “immediate danger of suicide bombings” but praised Lebanese security agencies’ efforts to thwart several such attacks.
“We are taking proactive steps to prevent such attacks or limit their damage as much as possible,” the source said. “Security coordination between the various security services has prevented Lebanon from falling into the trap of bombings. There is information about a large list of targets that ISIS put together, and they include areas [associated with] Hezbollah, the Lebanese Army and General Security, as well as civilian areas, in order to sow an atmosphere of fear and confusion.”
The source said the Lebanese security agencies are also being supported by the Syrian army, as well as Saudi Arabia, which sent a high-level security delegation to Beirut to follow up on the explosion at the Duroy Hotel and the implication of Saudi citizens in terrorist plots.
Lebanon will need all the regional support it can get, he implied, if it is to defeat the threat of ISIS, which has proven itself to be stronger than many observers gave it credit for.
ISIS has even infiltrated Palestinian camps, he said, pointing to the assassination in Ain al-Hilweh of Fatah figures such as Mohammad Abdel Kader, AKA Mohammad Sultan, who is believed to have been killed for cooperating with Lebanese Army Intelligence.
In addition to trying to control parts of Iraq and eliminating its rivals in the Syrian opposition, ISIS is seeking to “inflict some hellish scheme on Lebanon in order to win official recognition of its project, which would take the Middle East 500 years back in time and ignite absurd civil wars,” the source said.
Other sources corroborated the first source’s comments that Lebanon was receiving external help, saying that General Security’s cooperation with Arab, European and international security agencies has led to the discovery of several ISIS cells and hindered the implementation of their plans.
Security efforts are currently focused on discovering the details of more planned suicide attacks after authorities intercepted fundamentalist groups coming from Syria toward Arsal. According to information gathered by these efforts, the car that exploded in Tayyouneh recently was rigged in the Palestinian refugee camp of Burj al-Barajneh.
According to the same sources, this information and other reports led authorities to clamp down on Palestinian camps, with the help of the Palestinian Authority, in order to prevent their exploitation by terrorists.
The camps of Sabra, Shatila, and Burj al-Barajneh in Beirut, as well as Ain al-Hilweh in the south were all found to have serious security breaches.
Among the elements of concern to authorities was the Jund al-Sham organization in the Taameer neighborhood in Ain al-Hilweh, which has more than 200 fighters. Jund al-Sham is known to be extremist and was found to be in direct contact with ISIS, which is making a push to establish itself as the leader of extremist movements in the region.
Fatah, on the other hand, boasts about 650 fighters at least, making it the largest armed force in the camp. The PA has been very cooperative, the sources said, in isolating extremist elements and has even shown its willingness to face them in open battle in order to eliminate the threat they pose to the future of all Palestinian refugees.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s “security room” is keeping a close eye on all areas under its control, particularly the southern suburbs, and especially during Ramadan. The party leadership fears that ISIS or its allies may attempt to strike large gatherings, either at restaurants or mosques, and in response have ordered moving checkpoints and security cameras to be placed around sensitive areas.
The party is also coordinating directly with the Internal Security Forces, especially around the border between the suburbs and Burj al-Barajneh, which is an area of primary concern for Hezbollah.
The party leadership, despite extreme secrecy, seems confident that it can manage the breakdown of security in Lebanon.
Separately, the sources revealed that General Security head Abbas Ibrahim has recently taken new, discreet steps to release the two bishops kidnapped in Aleppo last year. The sources said he is in talks with the Syrian regime, as well as opposition forces and influential parties in the Gulf in an attempt to find a solution.