Lebanon News

Lebanon army chief showers soldiers with praise over border protection

Children of slain Lebanese Army soldiers pose on a tank in the Mohammad Zogheib Barracks in the southern city of Sidon, marking Army Day, Monday, August 1, 2016. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Zaatari)

BEIRUT: Army chief Gen. Jean Kahwagi Monday commended the efforts of his troops to keep Lebanon's border safe and maintain civil peace inside the country.

"Fellow soldiers, you have protected and are still protecting Lebanon in its coexistence," Kahwagi said in his Order of the Day on the 71st anniversary of the Lebanese Army's establishment.

The Order is read aloud to troops by their officers in barracks across the country. As in the previous two Army Days, there was no ceremony held this year due to the presidential vacuum.

"You have safeguarded the sovereignty of the nation and its regional and international status through your presence and perseverance along [the country's] southern border [as well as] by confronting the Israeli enemy," he said in his Order.

"Similarly, you bravely fended off the terrorist takfiri waves along the eastern border, and relentlessly pursued them by eradicating their cells of sabotage locally and preventing the country's collapse," he added.

The Lebanese Army continuously pounds the hideouts of militants along the country's northeastern border to keep them at bay.

It is believed that thousands of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as Nusra Front, and ISIS militants are holed up on the rugged outskirts of Arsal, as well as neighboring Ras Baalbek and Al-Qaa.

"We are convinced that the active confrontation with terrorism ... requires a comprehensive strategy that takes into consideration coordinating the security efforts internationally," Kahwagi said.

Kahwagi also praised the "impartial and balanced performance [of soldiers] during the recent municipal and mukhtar elections (held in May) to lay the foundations of democratic life in the country."

He also remembered the country's fallen service members, and pledged to the families of the nine kidnapped soldiers "to continue staunch efforts to reveal their fate, release them and ensure their safe return to their institution and beloved ones."

ISIS and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham militants kidnapped more than 30 soldiers and policemen in Arsal in Aug. 2014 during a bloody battle with the army.

Four were killed in captivity, and the rest were eventually released with the exception of the nine held by ISIS.

Families, however, feel that their cause has been abandoned.

During a sit-in organized Sunday, families of kidnapped soldiers protested what they called a “stagnant and forgotten cause.”

Kahwagi also lamented that the presidential vacuum led to the cancellation of celebrations for the third consecutive year.

"We are in grave sorrow over the cancellation of the traditional swords celebration this year and for the third year in a row due to the presidential vacuum," Kahwagi said.

Graduating officers normally get the chance to receive celebratory swords on Army Day.

The country has been without a head of state since May 2014.





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