BEIRUT: Mount Lebanon Prosecutor Claude Karam gave a 24-hour grace period Friday for the demolition of a building being illegally constructed by Hezbollah members in the Jbeil village of Lassa.
"The violators have 24 hours to demolish the building or else the security forces will have to intervene and bring it down themselves," the judge told The Daily Star.
Karam said that his decision was reached after mediators intervened in an attempt to solve the dispute in a friendly way.
The Maronite Diocese had filed a complaint Friday after Hezbollah members resumed construction overnight on a controversial plot of land in Lassa that the church says belongs to it, security sources said Friday.
The sources told The Daily Star that Hezbollah’s local military commander, Yasar Hasan Miqdad, backed by around 50 Hezbollah members dressed in special uniforms, entered the disputed land late Thursday night and restarted work, nearly two years after a court ruling that banned construction.
Work continued until shortly before daybreak as Miqdad has threatened anyone trying to use force to stop him.
Security forces were only called in after work stopped around 4:30 a.m., the sources said, adding that the provocative move has created a tense atmosphere.
Around midday, a group of Lassa residents blocked a vital road linking Jbeil to its mountainous outskirts to protest the Hezbollah move.
The long-running dispute over land ownership in Lassa dates back to 2011.
The town has historically been a place of co-existence between Christians and the majority of its Shiite population since the early 19th century, and a local official blamed outdated maps for the recent flare-up.
Lassa’s mukhtar, Mahmoud Miqdad, has said properties in the village had changed hands frequently and without any problems since the 1800s. He is said to have provided Yasar Hasan Miqdad with a forged building permit.
Talal Miqdad, an Shiite official in Lassa who has been mediating the dispute, said some 150 dignitaries had signed a petition to strip the mukhtar of his powers, accusing him of preventing a survey of the disputed lands in Lassa.
In July 2011, a delegation from the Maronite Patriarchate arrived in Lassa to survey land it said belonged to the church, in line with a judicial order.
Residents who were not informed of the visit beforehand reacted angrily, and a brief physical confrontation forced the delegation to abandon its mission.
Politicians and church officials met in a bid to solve the impasse, but even though a solution has been reached, according to the Maronite patriarch, the tension has remained.