HERMEL, Lebanon: The Lebanese Army carried out raids targeting Syrian refugee camps on Lebanon’s border with Syria Wednesday, in further attempts to protect the country from regional turmoil.
“The Lebanese Army launched a wide-scale search operation in the mountainous outskirts of Arsal and the camps of Syrian refugees in search for armed men and wanted people,” an Army statement said.
“This mission is part of continuous security measures the Army is taking to control Lebanon’s eastern borders and preserve stability,” the statement added.
Speaking to The Daily Star, an Army source said the raids were part of the military’s operation that began in the area last week.
“These measures are part of efforts to preserve stability in the country and prevent any repercussions or God forbid, reactions to what is happening in the region,” the source said, requesting to remain anonymous.
The source added that no arrests were made during the raids.
The military began searching Syrian refugee camps in Arsal last week, arresting five Syrians suspected of having links to terror groups.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) made swift advances against the Iraqi government last week, taking over Mosul, Iraq’s second city along with the city of Tikrit, and threatened Baghdad.
The group is battling Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria. Hezbollah is fighting along Assad’s forces, and many fear the ISIS’ recent victories could galvanize dormant cells in Lebanon and trigger a resumption of attacks on areas associated with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Hezbollah, the Army and Internal Security Forces beefed up their security measures in the Beirut southern suburbs earlier this week in light of reports that some terrorist groups were planning to attack the area where the party enjoys wide support.
The Beirut southern suburbs and the Bekaa Valley have been hit by a wave of bombings last year and early this year claimed by Syrian rebels.
Late Wednesday, the Army arrested two Lebanese men carrying arms and illegally driving a Grand Cherokee in Beirut suburb Haret Hreik.
An Army checkpoint stopped the silver-colored car with the plate number 152285 N, according to an Army statement. A Kalashnikov automatic rifle and a 9mm pistol were found inside the vehicle with ammunition.
The detained men as well as the arms were referred to the judiciary.
Speaking to The Daily Star Wednesday, Ahmad al Flaiti, the vice chairman of Arsal’s municipality, expressed his fear of escalating security threats in the village’s outskirts due to rising tension in adjacent Syrian territory.
According to Flaiti, the outskirts of Arsal have become dominated by armed rebels who have withdrawn from Syrian areas reclaimed by Assad’s forces. “[The Syrian region in] Qalamoun has witnessed a heavy influx of anti-Assad militants recently,” he added.
Gunmen who fled the Rankous area in Qalamoun have already escaped to the hills and valleys that separate Lebanon from its larger, embattled neighbor.
Flaiti hailed Lebanese efforts, stating measures taken were “necessary to ensure the security of the village’s residents.”