Lebanon News

Tensions flair again in Lasa over construction

A photo of the Lassa village in Jbeil. (The Daily Star)

BEIRUT: A Mount Lebanon prosecutor ordered the demolition of a building after members of Hezbollah returned to work on the Jbeil village site in violation of an agreement with the Maronite Church, the latest development in a longstanding dispute.

Prosecutor Claude Karam gave a 24-hour grace period Friday for the removal of the unauthorized structure in Lasa, which falls on a plot of land the Maronite Patriarchate claims to own. 

“The violators have 24 hours to demolish the building or else the security forces will have to intervene and tear it down themselves,” the judge told The Daily Star.

Karam said the grace period was given after mediators intervened in an attempt to resolve the dispute in an amicable way.

Karam’s order came after the Maronite Diocese filed a complaint Friday when Hezbollah members resumed the construction overnight on the controversial plot of land in Lasa, security sources said.

The sources told The Daily Star that Hezbollah’s local military commander, Yasar Hasan Miqdad, backed by around 50 party members dressed in special uniforms, entered the disputed area late Thursday night and began working, nearly two years after a court ruling banned any construction.

Their work continued until shortly before daybreak, and 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 had created a tense atmosphere.

Former Jbeil MP Fares Soueid, a March 14 official, described the development as very dangerous, saying: “It shows that no one can face the will of Hezbollah once it sets its mind on something.”

“The repetition of this subject, in Jbeil in particular and Lebanon in general, shows the country is unable to implement laws,” he told a local radio station. 

The long-running dispute over land ownership in Lasa dates back to 2011.

The village has historically been a place of coexistence between Christians and the majority of its Shiite population since the early 19th century, and locals blame outdated maps for the recent flare-up.

Disputes over land that was claimed by the Maronite Church as part of its endowment in the village subsided when Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai sponsored an agreement in 2013 to resurvey the area. 

But Friday’s developments in Lasa came after relations between the patriarch and Hezbollah have frayed in recent weeks over Rai’s last month visit to occupied Jerusalem.

Lasa’s mukhtar, Mahmoud Miqdad, has said that 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, a Shiite official in Lasa 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 the survey of disputed land.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 07, 2014, on page 3.




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