Lebanon News

Sleiman: Deployment to prevent infiltration

FILE - President Michel Sleiman meets General Jean Kahwaji. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra)

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army began deploying troops Friday in border areas in the north and the east of the country in line with a government decision aimed at protecting citizens following a series of deadly security incidents on the Lebanese-Syrian frontier. President Michel Sleiman said Lebanon would not allow its territory to serve as a base or a transit point for the smuggling of arms and gunmen into Syria.

The Army vowed to prevent the infiltration of armed groups and the smuggling of arms along the Lebanese-Syrian border, warning that it would crack down on violators.

“Pursuant to the Cabinet’s decision of July 9, 2012, the Army has begun bolstering its deployment in the north, beginning with the city of Tripoli and its suburbs, up to the northern and eastern borders,” the Army said in a statement.

“The operation will continue in the next few days with the deployment of new units alongside those military units and the Joint Security Force already present in these areas,” it added.

The government approved a plan Monday to boost the presence of the Army along the borders with Syria following repeated Syrian incursions into Lebanese territory.

In the most recent of deadly border incidents, two Lebanese were killed and 10 were wounded by Syrian shelling in the northern Wadi Khaled border region last week.

Three children and their mother were wounded Wednesday in the Bekaa village of Tufail after their house was caught in the crossfire between Syrian forces and the rebel Free Syrian Army.

Several Lebanese have been killed and wounded by gunfire as the Syrian Army fought anti-regime armed groups in border areas in recent months.

In its statement, the Army said troops have been instructed to counter any violations.

“All Army units tasked with implementing the mission have received precise and firm instructions to protect citizens from any attack, crack down on the carrying of arms and prevent infiltration and smuggling [of arms] on the two sides of the Lebanese-Syrian border, including an immediate response to the sources of fire from wherever it may originate,” the statement said.

The Army expressed its full confidence that residents of the border areas would be receptive to the new measures to be taken by troops in order to ensure their safety.

The Army urged residents to cooperate with troops with the aim of “thwarting any suspicious attempts to destabilize the security situation in the mentioned areas.”

Army units began taking positions in the village of Hishah in Wadi Khaled as part of the plan for the Army deployment on the Lebanese-Syrian border, the National News Agency reported. The Lebanese government has adopted a policy of dissociating itself from developments in Syria.

Meanwhile, Sleiman said rival political leaders from the March 8 and March 14 camps had agreed during last month’s National Dialogue to bolster the Army’s materiel, and on keeping Lebanon’s distance from regional conflicts.

Referring to the so-called “Baabda Declaration” adopted by the rival leaders, Sleiman said in a speech at the graduation ceremony at Notre Dame University Friday night: “We agreed in the ‘Baabda Declaration’ not to allow the use of Lebanon as a sanctuary, a transit point or a base for the smuggling of arms and armed men, to commit to the resolutions of international legitimacy and to continue efforts to agree on a national defense strategy, including the issue of arms.”

He dispelled fears of sectarian strife in Lebanon as a result of the turmoil in Syria. “It’s about time for all [parties] to abandon their foreign commitments or wagers and adhere to the ‘Baabda Declaration’ and defend it,” Sleiman said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 14, 2012, on page 1.




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