SIDON, Lebanon: Salafist Sheikh Ahmad Assir vowed to conduct a “peaceful” march after Friday prayers to apartments in Abra, east of Sidon, that he claimed were being used by Hezbollah to monitor him in order to attack him and his supporters.
Assir called on his supporters Thursday evening to take part in the march, a move that is expected to heighten tensions in the city.
Separately, the Salafist sheikh questioned the reasons behind the president and Army commander’s inaction Thursday after hearing reports on Hezbollah fighting in Syria:
“I ask that when it was uncovered that they [Hezbollah] are fighting inside Syria ... why didn’t the state take action? Why hasn’t the president given his opinion in the case so far? Why is the Army commander behaving as if nothing has happened?”
Three Hezbollah fighters were killed over the weekend in the Syrian region of Al-Qusair, security sources said.
Hezbollah has dismissed reports that it was fighting alongside Assad in Syria, arguing that Lebanese living in Al-Qusair were defending themselves against attacks by the Free Syrian Army.
Assir made the comments while addressing around 700 supporters who held a sit-in in the Sidon neighborhood of Maksar al-Abed to protest Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian conflict.
The sheikh argued that there is a link between the Army operation in Arsal earlier this month and the reports of Hezbollah fighting in Al-Qusair.
“I think yes, there is a link. Army Intelligence, which is under the authority of [Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed] Hasan Nasrallah, has fulfilled his orders so that ... they [Hezbollah] conquer Al-Qusair and prevent support for it from Arsal,” he said.
The Army has had a heavy presence in Arsal since Feb. 1, when two soldiers were killed in an ambush after trying to apprehend a suspect.
Despite Assir’s fiery rhetoric, supporter’s banners bore slogans that were less inflammatory than recent protests.