BEIRUT: Lebanon must protect its border in the wake of the growing threat posed by Islamist extremists from Syria, the March 14 coalition said Wednesday, reiterating a previous call.
March 14 also questioned the lack of response to its request to protect the Lebanon-Syria border with the help of U.N. peacekeeping troops.
Speaking at a news conference on March 14’s behalf, Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat criticized both Parliament and the previous government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, blaming them for neglecting the coalition’s repeated calls for border control and the deployment of the Lebanese Army.
“Today we reiterate the need for a rescue plan,” Fatfat said, after rehashing the dates and contents of the requests made by March 14 over the past few years.
“We are surprised at the lack of response from the previous governments and from Parliament to our multiple requests,” he told a news conference at Parliament headquarters in Nijmeh Square in Downtown Beirut.
Fatfat also slammed those he said were trying to portray March 14 as the group responsible for the lack of Lebanese troops deployed along the border with Syria.
“The previous government was the one that refused to take any action to protect the northern border with Syria, and we are reaping the results today," Fatfat argued.
“For the past few days, we have been subjected to a campaign by the March 8 media, blaming March 14 for the previous government’s failure on the security issue,” he continued.
The Lebanese Army fought five days of deadly gunbattles with jihadists from ISIS and the Nusra Front last month.
The militants are holding at least 23 Lebanese soldiers and policemen captive, demanding to swap them for Islamist prisoners held in Roumieh Prison.
Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra, also a member of the March 14 alliance, made a stronger criticism of Hezbollah and its allies in the March 8 coalition.
“Why does March 8, particularly Hezbollah, continue to reject an Army deployment along the border with Syria as well as UNIFIL’s assistance?” Zahra asked at the joint press conference.
He pointed to heavy gunshots fired in the air Tuesday in the Akkar village of Qarha in the Wadi Khaled border region that occurred during the funeral of a Hezbollah member killed while fighting alongside Syrian regime forces.
“They opened the border with Syria and removed earth mounds in Qarha and more than 70 cars from Syria entered [Lebanon] to take part in the funeral. The sound of gunshots [fired in the air] could be heard for over two hours,” Zahra complained. “Is this the security that Hezbollah wants?”