BEIRUT: Akkar Future Movement MPs intend to submit a memo this week to President Michel Sleiman calling for the deployment of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) on the northern border, in coordination with the March 14 coalition and area dignitaries.
“The Lebanese Army is trying to deploy in the region, but violations of the border towns by the Syrian side are incessant; that is why we need the protection of international forces,” Akkar MP Nidal Tohme told The Daily Star.
Tohme said that intense shelling of north Lebanon border villages continued over the weekend, even after President Michel Sleiman received assurances from Syrian officials that those responsible would be held accountable. He also hinted that he believes the targeting of specifically Christian villages is part of a deliberate strategy on the part of Syria.
At least 25 shells fired by the Syrian army struck the mainly Christian village of Menjez Friday, wounding one person and causing damage.
Hundreds of residents of Menjez fled their homes in search of sanctuary elsewhere, a scene repeated over the next few days in other Akkar villages, which were also subject to severe shelling.
“The timing of the targeting of such towns raises many questions as to whether this is the Syrian regime’s response to President Sleiman’s recent national stances,” said Tohme.
In July, Sleiman accused Syria of violating Lebanese territory after a house in a village in the east of the country was hit by a shell, several of which also fell along the northern border. The president instructed Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour to lodge a complaint with the Syrian ambassador in Lebanon over the issue.
Tohme said that besides the shelling, Syrian troops have conducted a number of incursions into Lebanese territory, some of which have included the kidnapping of Lebanese nationals.
Similarly, Future bloc MP Riad Rahhal lambasted the Syrian violations, accusing the Syrian regime of sowing strife in the region.
Rahhal told The Daily Star that the shelling brings to mind the 1975 Lebanese Civil War, when Christians in certain regions were forced to abandon their towns.
“Other towns have also been subjected to Syrian shelling, and we cannot simply keep quiet about such violations. The era of Syrian tutelage is over,” Rahhal added.
The northern MP indicated that the problem is not just about material damage and losses, but about the tension and fear the residents are suffering from.
“The residents are constantly worried and insecure. We don’t have to put up with that,” Rahhal said, urging a UNIFIL deployment on the northern border, in the same way the U.N. forces are deployed in south Lebanon, in order to prevent further attacks.
The U.N. force known as UNIFIL has been in southern Lebanon since 1978, and was expanded after the 2006 war so peacekeepers could deploy along the border with Israel to help Lebanese troops extend their authority into the south for the first time in decades.
In mid August, Kataeb leader Amin Gemayel also urged “the deployment of U.N. [soldiers]” along the border with Syria.
The former president said that Lebanon should also provide the Arab League and the United Nations with information related to Syria’s violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty and lodge a complaint with the Security Council against its neighbor.