BEIRUT: March 8 MPs Thursday hit back at rival March 14 lawmakers who had slammed a Syrian incursion into Lebanon earlier in the week, accusing them of remaining tight-lipped whenever Israel attacks Lebanon, hours before Syrian forces shot dead a Syrian national in a Lebanese border village.
Speaking to AFP early Thursday, Mikati said a joint Syrian-Lebanese committee was closely following up on Tuesday’s incursion.
“I am not being silent about this, we are dealing with the issue normally,” Mikati said, noting the permeability of the border.
He said Lebanon was committed to assisting Syrian refugees who have fled unrest in their country. He estimated their number at nearly 5,000.
“My approach to these refugees coming to Lebanon is purely humanitarian,” he said.
Baalbek-Hermel MP Nawar Saheli, a Hezbollah official, expressed regret for remarks made by the March 14 officials against a “several-meter” incursion carried out by two tanks from a “sisterly” state. The state-run National News Agency said two Syrian Army tanks entered the Bekaa border town of Arsal Tuesday, and fired at an abandoned battery factory, suspecting that armed men were hiding inside.
“We regret what we heard yesterday when two tanks of a sisterly state advanced for several meters inside Lebanese territories at a time when we see Israeli warplanes violate Lebanese airspace on a daily basis and sometimes land incursions take place and people are killed on the border and we hear no comment.”
“We heard a loud yell and comments … only yesterday, when two tanks from a sisterly state advanced to tackle a small security problem … and it is shameful that we heard a politician comparing the southern borders [with Israel] to the northern borders [with Syria],” Saheli told reporters after meeting Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the Grand Serail with MPs from the same constituency Thursday.
In an implicit reference to Hezbollah, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea questioned Wednesday why some sides who support the army, people and resistance formula to resist Israel remained silent on the Syrian incursion.
Other March 14 officials called on the Lebanese government to summon Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdel-Karim Ali, and to protest against the incident.
“Apart from details, it seems that some sides in Lebanon have forgotten the security, economic, judicial and political articles of the agreement of cooperation, brotherhood and coordination forged between Lebanon and Syria,” interjected MP Ghazi Zeaiter. “We wish that those voices which we heard yesterday are raised against Israeli barbarian attacks which claim the lives of people on the land of Lebanon.”
For his part, MP Walid Sukkarieh highlighted the need for Lebanese-Syrian military cooperation to control the joint border and halt the smuggling of arms to Syria.
“If this does not happen, then it is natural that the Syrian Army will combat trafficking into its territories and the recent incident in Arsal is of this kind,” Sukkarieh said.
MP Assem Qanso described the situation on the Lebanese-Syrian border as “very bad.”
“The security situation on the Lebanese-Syrian border is very bad, especially in 22 Lebanese villages … which some armed gangs are taking advantage of to hide in and fight the Syrian Army on the other side of the border,” said Qanso.
Commenting on the incident hours before Thursday’s shooting, Ambassador Ali urged the matter not to be blown out of proportion.
“There is no need to exaggerate or sensationalize things in a way which some are looking for, the Lebanese and Syrian sides are discussing the matter,” Ali told reporters after holding talks with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim at his residence in Balamand.
“The issue of sovereignty in the Lebanese and Syrian states is handled by each of them.”
For his part, Information Minister Walid Daouk said that Tuesday’s Syrian incursion was not addressed by the Cabinet because the matter “must be tackled by relevant ministers.”
Separately, March 14 MPs continued to slam the Arsal incident.
Beirut MP Ammar Houri, from the Future Movement, said that the Cabinet’s refusal to comment on the Arsal incident confirmed that the Cabinet was “Syrian.”
“Ignoring the Arsal incident during yesterday’s Cabinet session indicates that it is outside space and time,” Houri told Voice of Lebanon radio station.
He said that “Hezbollah’s government” had resorted to neutrality in a matter which has to do with sovereignty. “Maybe this government does not consider Arsal and some northern areas as Lebanese territories and that it should care for residents there.”
Metn MP Sami Gemayel, from the Kataeb (Phalange) Party, questioned the silence of the “people of the resistance,” the defense minister, the army and the prime minister on the matter.