HADATH, Lebanon: Two men, accused of dealing drugs and possessing weapons, were arrested in a raid at the Lebanese University’s Hadath campus Friday.
Members of the Army and police were heavily deployed at the gates of the upper and lower parts of the campus, taking two members of the Zeaiter family into custody. The men did not have student identification, and it was not immediately clear whether they were enrolled at the university.
Security sources told The Daily Star that the decision to raid the university was made several days ago, after Hezbollah and the Amal Movement approved the Army’s demands to root out drug dealers inside the campus, the Lebanese University’s largest.
“Hezbollah and the Amal Movement agreed to the raid on the condition that the Army led the operation and not the Internal Security Forces or its Information Branch,” a security source said.
In the past year, several media reports have described the Hadath campus as a safe haven for drug dealers where Hezbollah and Amal control security through the Zeaiter clan.
Students on campus Friday described the morning’s events, as well as the circumstances that apparently led to the raid.
Ranin, who would not disclose her last name, said that when she left her biology class on the lower campus at around 9:30 a.m., she saw at least a dozen cars filled with soldiers and plain-clothed officers arrive and surround the two cafeterias that she called the “Zeaiter cafeterias.”
“Some of the soldiers were in military uniform, others were just in civilian clothes,” she said.
“They started asking for student IDs from everyone around, but not everyone had student IDs,” she added.
Another student, Zeinab, said that in the past few weeks nargileh (water pipes) loaded with drugs had been sold out of the facility.
“All sorts of illegal things were being sold at the cafeteria,” said Zeinab, who also refused to give her last name. “You can find everything except clothes in this cafeteria.”
Following the arrest of the two men, the army brought in two trucks and removed nargilehs from the cafeterias before shutting them down.
Soldiers posted papers on the doors of the locked cafeterias that read: “It is forbidden to open the cafeteria without Army permission.”
The managers of the two cafeterias, who students said are mostly members of the Zeaiter family, built an outdoor area for nargileh smokers after the country-wide ban on smoking indoors went into effect.
Another family member sells mobile phones and credit from a stand inside. According to some eye witnesses, he was also detained.
“When the soldiers were asking for IDs, the guy who has the shop put on a jacket with the word security written on it,” one eyewitness said.
“He told the soldiers that he was a member of the university’s security,” said the eyewitness, who declined to be identified.
Many students blamed the Zeaiter family, rather than Hezbollah and Amal, for the problems at the Hadath campus.
“No one likes them anymore ... today they closed the cafeteria, tomorrow you’ll see it reopened and everything will be back to normal,” said LU student Ranin.
Nadim Yazbeck, head of the Lebanese Forces Students’ Association, also said the change would not last long.
“We all know that this is not the right way to solve the problems at the Lebanese University,” Yazbeck told The Daily Star, adding that the Army should go after “the big people who are controlling and financing these groups on the Hadath campus and not some drug dealers and students on campus.”
The Daily Star could not immediately reach University president Adnan Sayyed Hussein for comment.