BEIRUT: The kidnappings Wednesday of over two dozen Syrians, a Turkish national and one Saudi citizen by a local Lebanese clan in retaliation for the abduction of one of its kinsmen in Damascus has edged this small Mediterranean country closer to major chaos, political sources warned.
Arab reactions to the kidnappings – travel advisories by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates that their citizens should leave the country immediately – cast further doubts over Lebanon’s ability to weather the unrest in its eastern neighbor Syria.
“What happened today is a clear indication that we are [on] the brink of major chaos in Lebanon,” a senior political source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Daily Star Thursday.
“The storm in Syria has reached Lebanon now and there is no going back,” the source added.
Wednesday’s kidnappings were further complicated by conflicting reports of the fate of 11 Lebanese pilgrims abducted in Syria in May, with several media outlets saying that the pilgrims were killed in a Syrian army aerial bombardment of Azaz, in the northwest of Syria.
A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Daily Star that the 11 pilgrims, who were kidnapped in Syria on May 22 shortly after crossing from Turkey, were still alive and safe.
The Meqdad clan, which hails from east Lebanon’s Bekaa region, said Wednesday it kidnapped over 30 men it said were members or supporters of the Free Syrian Army in retaliation for the abduction of one of its kinsmen earlier in the week in Damascus.
Maher Meqdad, who said his family fields an armed wing, told The Daily Star Wednesday that his clan had taken matters into its own hands as the Lebanese government had taken no steps to free their kinsman, Hassan Meqdad.
“We will do it ourselves, and we have what you can call a regulated army to do the job,” he said.
Maher said that his family was acting according to the “eye for an eye” principle, and no longer needs the Lebanese government to intervene in order to secure the release of Hassan.
According to one Arab media report, Hassan was detained by the FSA in the Syrian capital Monday on suspicion of belonging to Hezbollah and aiding the Syrian regime in its fight against the rebels.
Hezbollah denied Tuesday Hassan was a member of the resistance.
Despite FSA denials Wednesday that the rebel group was not behind Hassan’s abduction, the Meqdads said they would continue their actions until Hassan was released.
The group also held Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey responsible for Hassan’s kidnapping, “because they support the FSA,” and backed their threats against them by abducting a Turkish national and a Saudi citizen.
Saudi Arabia, citing the “open threats” against it, instructed its nationals to leave the country immediately.
Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad al-Asiri told the National News Agency that he had also requested that all Saudi nationals not visit the country “given the current circumstances.”
The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar issued similar travel advisories, warning its citizen to stay away from Lebanon and for those in the country to leave as soon as possible.
The travel advisories issued throughout the day coincided with action by the relatives of the kidnapped on the street.
With burning tires, a number of the relatives blocked the road both to and from Beirut’s international airport, which led to at least one carrier altering its planned arrival in Beirut to Amman, Jordan.
The NNA reported that there were also preparations to block the Beirut-Damascus highway leading to the eastern border crossing of Masnaa.