Lebanon News

Syria rebels urge Lebanon to end Hezbollah attacks

In this Friday, April 12, 2013 photo, Syrian soldiers stand guard at the Lebanese border village of al-Qasr, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

BEIRUT: The opposition Syrian National Coalition called on Lebanon to control its frontiers Tuesday, while the Future Movement contended it was “the duty” of Lebanese authorities to request United Nations assistance in protecting its northern and eastern borders.

The remarks came after Syrian rebels said they fired across the border over the weekend in retaliation against Hezbollah. Two Lebanese were killed in the attacks.

“The Syrian National Coalition calls on the Lebanese government to exert control over its borders and put an immediate stop to Hezbollah’s military operations on Syrian territory,” the SNC said in a statement.

“We call upon the Lebanese government to take action against Hezbollah’s aggressions and do everything within their means to ensure the safety of the innocent civilians on the Syrian-Lebanese border.”

The coalition, recognized by the Arab League and dozens of states as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, noted that for weeks Hezbollah forces have targeted villages on the Syrian side of the border and said the rebel Free Syrian Army “was forced to respond to these repeated aggressions.”

However, “due to the sensitivity of the situation,” the coalition also called on FSA battalions in Homs province to “exercise restraint” and “respect the sovereign borders of Lebanon.”

A rebel commander told AFP Monday they were “giving the Lebanese authorities an opportunity to respond, to take practical steps to put a stop to [Hezbollah’s] shelling,” while threatening to launch new attacks should the Shiite group continue to target rebels in Syria.

Lebanon has an official policy of disassociation on Syria, but its rival political parties are sharply divided over the conflict.

Hezbollah supports the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Tuesday buried two more of its fighters killed in action across the border – Mohammad Obeid from the village of Ali al-Nahri and Haidar al-Haj Ali from Nabatieh – while the March 14 bloc stands with the revolution.

Yet the March 14-aligned Future Movement said Tuesday that regardless of who was responsible for the attacks on Lebanon, it could not remain silent.

“[The Future Movement] denounces in the strongest terms the attacks on the Lebanese villages on the eastern and northern borders. ... They are denounced and rejected regardless of the perpetrators, and we can’t accept them or stay silent toward them,” the bloc said in a statement issued following its weekly meeting.

“It is the duty of the official authorities to ask for the help of the United Nations to protect the eastern and northern borders from attack by the Syrian side,” the statement continued, adding that the bloc has repeatedly demanded such action be taken.

The bloc noted that Syrian border violations have persisted for more than two years, even though “some media outlets and politicians have only recently awoken to the calls to confront these attacks.”

As yet, no decision has been taken to approach the U.N. about halting border violations from Syria, caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour said Monday.

Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour said Tuesday his ministry has begun its work in terms of the complaint to the Arab League, the National News Agency reported.

“We are waiting for the Army command to supply us the information on the incidents that occurred over the past couple of days, and on the basis of these details we will send the complaint,” Mansour said.

However, Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdel-Karim Ali downplayed the value of lodging a complaint with the Arab League.

“What can the Arab League possibly do? It stood helpless before the Judaization of Jerusalem, as it stood helpless in Libya and it is sending gunmen to Syria. It is unable to do anything,” the ambassador said in an interview to Al-Risala Radio station Tuesday.

“Arms and gunmen are going into Syria through Lebanon and there are some security and political officials involved in such actions,” Ali said.

“What is happening today is a result, and not a prelude [to further tension], and the matter should be addressed,” he added.

Also Tuesday, United States Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly condemned recent attacks on Lebanon from Syria during a meeting with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

According to a U.S. Embassy statement, Connelly “condemned the shelling and reiterated the U.S. call on all parties in the region to avoid any actions that would exacerbate the crisis in Syria, increase the propensity for spillover violence, and negatively impact civilian populations.” – with AFP

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 17, 2013, on page 3.




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