BEIRUT: March 14 officials and the Progressive Socialist Party leader denounced Hezbollah’s involvement in clashes in Syria Monday, while the resistance movement said its members had died defending villages inhabited by Lebanese Shiites.
Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel slammed Hezbollah’s involvement in the clashes in Qusayr, warning that interfering in Syrian affairs would endanger political stability in Lebanon.
Gemayel said Hezbollah’s practices in other countries were also harming Lebanese interests.
“Especially the meddling in Bahrain, Syria and Bulgaria’s affairs is harming Lebanon’s interests and stability,” Gemayel said after meeting with Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai in Bkirki.
He added that such meddling would have negative consequences for the country. “We are all in the same boat after all,” he said.
Bahrain has also accused Hezbollah, which backs the protesters calling for reforms there, of interfering in its local affairs.
Bulgaria, for its part, recently implicated two men with links to Hezbollah in the July 2012 bombing of a tourist bus in Burgas that claimed the lives of five Israeli tourists and one Bulgarian, and left many others wounded.
Gemayel’s former ally, PSP leader Walid Jumblatt said Hezbollah should cease military activities in Syria in order to preserve its good record of resistance against the Israeli occupation in Lebanon.
“[Hezbollah’s] weapons need to be redirected so that they do not get lost in Qusayr or places other than Qusayr in order to ensure that the honorable sacrifices and struggles of the resistance in south Lebanon are not forgotten,” said Jumblatt, a staunch supporter of the Syrian uprising.
But Hezbollah’s Baalbek-Hermel MP Nawar Sahli said Lebanese citizens were simply defending themselves against rebels who were attacking their homes in the Syrian region of Qusayr.
“These are Lebanese defending their villages that fall inside Syrian territory,” Sahli told The Daily Star. “They are being attacked. Do you stand by and watch if someone wants to slaughter you?”
He said villages attacked in Syria housed Lebanese families including the Hamadeh and Zuaiter families. “I am speaking to you as one who hails from Hermel. ... People there might have relatives in Hezbollah,” he said.
The reports of three dead Hezbollah fighters and another 14 wounded during the clashes came months after Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said that around 23 villages in Qusayr were fighting to defend themselves against attacks by the Free Syrian Army. The residents of these villages are predominantly Shiite and support Hezbollah.
The Syrian opposition and March 14 officials have repeatedly accused Hezbollah of sending fighters to Syria to support forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.
“What Hezbollah is doing is implicating Lebanon in the Syrian crisis and its repercussions won’t be only on this party but would involve the whole country in this war between the Syrian people and the Syrian regime,” said Akkar MP Moeen Merhebi Merhebi.
But Syrian Ambassador Ali AbdelKarim Ali denied that Hezbollah was involved in the crisis taking place in his country and said that some Lebanese living there are in fact threatened by rebel groups.
“Attempts to spread the claim that the Lebanese resistance [Hezbollah] is aiding [the regime] are refutable,” Ali told reporters after meeting Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour.
The Qusayr region, located just across Lebanon’s northeast border with Syria, witnessed similar fighting last year that led to the killing of a Hezbollah commander.
“Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has spoken about this on previous occasions to people with dual Syrian-Lebanese nationality and so Lebanese on Syrian soil are concerned about facing the militants who are attacking them,” Ali said.
While commenting on clashes, Prime Minister Najib Mikati voiced hope that Lebanon would distance itself politically from the conflict in Syria.
“Every day there are fights; I wish everyone had remained committed to the policy of disassociation.”