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Hariri slams Cabinet silence on Hezbollah involvement in Syria

  • Syrian rebels take position near Qusayr, 15 kms (nine miles) from the flashpoint city of Homs, on May 10, 2012. (AFP PHOTO/STR)

BEIRUT/HERMEL, Lebanon: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri blasted the government Thursday over its silence on recent clashes between Hezbollah fighters and Syrian rebels, accusing it of handing over national security to the party.

Meanwhile, Lebanese security sources denied claims by the rebel Free Syrian Army that one of its battalions had struck Hezbollah bases in the eastern city of Hermel near the border with Syria.

“What is happening on the Lebanese-Syrian border is extremely dangerous, and most dangerous of all is that the Lebanese government is [acting unaware] and allowing Hezbollah to take control of national security,” Hariri said in a statement.

“Hezbollah is providing new proof of the use of illegitimate arms ... The Lebanese government is [guilty] of keeping silent on this terrible disregard for national security,” the head of the opposition Future Movement added.

Last week, three Hezbollah fighters and 12 Syrian rebels were killed in fierce fighting in the Syrian town of Al-Qusair near the border with Lebanon, a Lebanese security source said.

Referring to the Syrian opposition’s accusations that Hezbollah was using Lebanese territory to attack the FSA in Syrian territory, Hariri said: “Where does the Lebanese government stand on all of this? Where is the disassociation policy on the use of Lebanese territory in the internal Syrian conflict? Or does this policy relieve Hezbollah of involving Lebanon in this conflict and give it the sole right to use arms on the Lebanese-Syrian front?”

“What is Hezbollah doing on the front with Syria? And who gave it the authorization to defend the border, even if we took into account the assumption [that the party was] halting attacks by Syrian gunmen?” he added.

Hariri also slammed Hezbollah for using its weapons for objectives other than resisting against Israel. “We were not far from the truth when we said resistance is no longer the main function of Hezbollah,” he said.

“Hezbollah’s weapons have other functions, which began to emerge with the frequent news of military operations carried out by armed groups belonging to Hezbollah in support of [Syrian President] Bashar Assad’s regime,” Hariri added.

The former premier stressed that the opposition March 14 coalition stood firmly against turning Lebanon into an arena to serve Tehran’s interests.

“If Iran is working day and night to rescue Bashar Assad’s regime from falling, and giving Hezbollah responsibility of the front with the Homs province, Lebanon will not accept becoming an arena to achieve this filthy mission,” the statement said.

Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour said Thursday that the 1920 border demarcation “placed some Lebanese villages inside Syrian territory.”

“These villages, which number around 20 and include Al-Qusair and other Lebanese villages, are Lebanese and are inhabited by Lebanese citizens,” Mansour told Russia Today.

Meanwhile, Lebanese security sources denied FSA claims that one of its battalions had struck Hezbollah bases in Hermel. “The FSA claims are baseless,” a security source in Hermel told The Daily Star.

An FSA statement earlier Thursday said one of its battalions had targeted two Hezbollah bases, one in Syria and the other in Hermel.

“A Free Syrian Army battalion carried out two simultaneous attacks at 12:30 p.m. Thursday ... targeting with machine guns and anti-tank missiles a group of Hezbollah fighters in the town of Al-Qusair,” the FSA said.

The first attack, according to the FSA, targeted fighters in a pair of four-wheel-drive vehicles while the second struck a Hezbollah base in Hawsh Sayyed Ali in Hermel.

The rebels used mortar bombs in their second assault, which led to the killing and wounding of a number of people, the FSA said in its statement.

The FSA, which accuses Hezbollah of fighting alongside forces loyal to Assad, said the two attacks came after the party allegedly continued shelling Syrian territories. The FSA also vowed more “surprises” in the coming days.

The FSA Tuesday gave Hezbollah a 48-hour deadline to halt what it says is the group’s shelling into villages around Al-Qusair.

Speaking to Al-Arabiya channel, Gen. Selim Idriss, the FSA chief of staff, said rebels would respond to the sources of fire regardless of how deep into Lebanon the location was. He appealed to Lebanese leaders to prevent Hezbollah from firing rockets against rebels in Syria. – The Daily Star, reporting by Rakan al-Fakih and Dana Khraiche

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 22, 2013, on page 3.
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