A general view shows the countryside of Arsal. AFP PHOTO / JOSEPH EID
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Arsal residents expressed fears Tuesday that a pledge made by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah over the weekend to oust Islamist militants from the town outskirts could ignite sectarian strife. Nasrallah vowed in a televised address Sunday to root out Islamist militants affiliated with the Nusra Front and ISIS from the northeastern border town to render the Lebanese-Syrian border secure. Residents agreed, however, that after years of economic and psychological stress Arsal was in need of a fixed security presence, but stressed this should be provided by the armed forces and not Hezbollah.Nowhere in Lebanon have sectarian tensions spawned by Hezbollah's involvement alongside the Syrian regime been as pitched as in Arsal, a Sunni town that openly supports the Syrian opposition in a sea of Shiite and Christian villages. Local NGO worker Merhi Fliti said he thought it was imperative that jihadi elements be rooted out of the town's outskirts, but that Hezbollah should not be the party to do it.
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