BEIRUT: Bahrain's interior minister announced Monday the deportation of a number of Lebanese it accused of belonging to, or supporting Hezbollah, the latest move in an escalating row between Lebanon and the Gulf.
"Several Lebanese residents were expelled after proven to have links to, or supporting the terrorist Hezbollah," Bahrain's interior ministry said in a tweet.
The number of Lebanese nationals who were expelled remains unclear. There are reportedly 750 Lebanese living in Bahrain.
The announcement comes days after Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo declared Hezbollah a “terrorist organization” for the second time since January, with the abstention of Lebanon and Iraq, and a reservation by Algeria.
Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil defended his decision to abstain from voting on the statement, explaining that it was not in line with terror classifications used by the United Nations and Arab treaties.
Earlier this month, the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council also declared Hezbollah a “terrorist organization,” accusing the party of creating chaos and discord in member states.
The GCC includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain.
In its Monday edition, Al-Akhbar newspaper reported that three Lebanese families were summoned to a security department in Bahrain where they were informed that they were being expelled, without being offered any time to wrap up their affairs in the capital Manama.
Those who spoke to the local daily on condition of anonymity said they were not notified prior to the deportation decision.
"We arrived at the security center and found a queue of women who were summoned for questioning, most of whom were Shiites," a female resident in Bahrain who arrived in Beirut told the newspaper.
She continued: "After two and a half hours in questioning we were told that we are no longer wanted here. It doesn't matter if our [residency] papers are legal or not."
She said the Lebanese were asked about their religion, the parties that they support or were affiliated to, and asked for information about their compatriots.
"Your leaders are manipulating you and you will have to pay the price," another man who was also deported quoted Bahraini authorities as telling him.
He said he was informed that he should "book airline tickets [back to Beirut] and then come back to pick up my wife."
The Lebanese embassy in Bahrain had reportedly advised the Lebanese to cooperate with the authorities, as "they can do nothing to help."
Al-Akhbar reported that a new batch of Lebanese residing in Manama will arrive on Wednesday.