BEIRUT: Hezbollah denied Tuesday the party was involved in the Arsal incident that left two soldiers dead while Future Movement lawmakers said it was unacceptable to attack the Army or any other security agency.
Meanwhile, the Army remained on high alert in search for the gunmen behind Friday’s ambush as children distributed flowers to soldiers in a sign of solidarity with the military.
“The Party has nothing to do with what happened in Arsal,” Hezbollah MP Nawwar Sahili told reporters at Parliament.
“Involving Hezbollah in the incidents is aimed at hurting Lebanon. If strife makes it to Lebanon then it will be impossible to remove and it will burn Lebanon with its Sunnis, Shiites and Christians,” he said.
The lawmaker was referring to remarks by some Future Movement MPs over the weekend who said Hezbollah was behind the clashes between gunmen and soldiers in the east Lebanon town.
Two soldiers were killed when the Army was ambushed Friday in the eastern town of Arsal by gunmen who retaliated after military intelligence personnel apprehended Khaled Hmayyed.
The Army has said that Hmayyed was wanted on several criminal charges, and the head of the Military Intelligence Brig. Gen. Edmond Fadel said Monday he was a member of Jabhat Al-Nusra, an Islamist group fighting alongside the opposition in Syria.
Sahili also said that lawmakers should be objective in such an incident.
“[Future Movement] MPs Mohammad Kabbara, Khaled Daher and Moeen Merehbi claimed that civilian vehicles belonging to Hezbollah were at the scene of the tragic incident and that a third party was involved in the attack,” Sahili said.
“All of that is deceptive and based on lies and fabrications,” he said, adding that the aim of such remarks was to transform the Arsal incident into a sectarian conflict.
Asked about allegations that the resistance group Friday buried one of its members who might have been involved in the clash, Sahili said the man died while performing his “Jihadist duty” in south Lebanon.
He voiced the party’s support for the Army, saying that the military institution is the guarantor of civil peace in the country.
Soldiers of the Army’s elite unit were stationed in five main points on the parameters of the eastern town of Arsal and applied tight measures restricting people’s movement in and out of the area.
Schoolchildren from the town visited the Army’s stations in Arsal and offered them flowers and small Lebanese flags, while voicing their support for the military and its measures.
The Future parliamentary bloc said any attacks on the military were unacceptable, calling for a transparent probe into the killing of Hmayyed and the two soldiers.
“It is unacceptable to attack the Army or any security institution regardless of the party it belongs to and it is also unacceptable to block roads in the face of the Army,” the Future parliamentary bloc said in statement after its weekly meeting.
The bloc also said that the incident which they described as both tragic and dangerous “revealed mistakes that worsened the crisis and damaged stability by a media campaign against the town and its residents along with a wave of sectarian and confessional incitements.”
The lawmakers called for a transparent investigation into the incident.
“The bloc calls on President Michel Sleiman, the government and judicial authority to launch a transparent and just probe supervised by the military tribunal to reveal the circumstances of what happened starting with the killing of the victim Khaled Hmayyed particularly that the facts are strange and unclear and should exposed to the public,” the statement said.
The lack of such a probe, the bloc continues, would contribute to the deterioration of the situation that cannot be resolved in "revenge or terror," but in applying the law in a fair manner.
MP Walid Jumblatt also voiced a similar stance as Hezbollah, saying in a statement Tuesday attempts to place Arsal residents against the Army are aimed at creating strife.
Jumblatt also called for a transparent probe into the incident.
“Any attempts to involve Arsal against the Lebanese Army do not only contradict its national path but also aim at planting strife and serving a blow to stability,” Jumblatt said.
“What happened in Arsal, this proud Arab town that has struggled in the past and is always struggling for rightful causes, deserves a clear and transparent probe that clearly identified responsible parties and punish the perpetrators in accordance with the law away from the logic of revenge,” he added.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who has urged Arsal residents to cooperate with the Army and hand over the suspects, voiced support for the Army’s work Tuesday, saying that the perpetrators should be punished.
“We reiterate our support for the Army and reject any attack on it from anyone and we also stress the need to punish whoever attacked the military institution as such behavior is rejected and will be followed by the judiciary,” Mikati said.
He added that political leaders should contribute to creating peaceful climates to lessen confessional and sectarian tensions.
The head of the Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun said the state should regain its authority over Lebanese regions particularly in Akkar, Tripoli and Arsal, slamming Lebanon’s policy of disassociation from events in Syria.
“We have warned so many times against dissociation when it comes to Lebanese lands and here is the state today losing its sovereignty in Akkar, Tripoli and Arsal while some Lebanese were swept into participating in the Syria war,” Aoun told reporters following the weekly meeting of his bloc.
“The state should regain its sovereignty over all Lebanese areas that it has lost control over and strike the illegitimate arms,” he added.
Aoun also said that the Army should not avoid clashing with gunmen out of fear of a strife, adding that his party refused to transform events in Arsal into an incident effecting a single party.
“Crime has no religion or sect,” he said.
The head of the FPM who has 10 ministers in the current Cabinet also criticized statements that affirm the Army is for all the Lebanese, saying: “Repeating such statements raise suspicions and the Army is for all people and of the people.”