Nas­ral­lah sig­nals at­tack near Ar­sal im­mi­nent

Hezbol­lah says ready to launch mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion to lib­er­ate area from mil­i­tants

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FRONT PAGE - By Hus­sein Dakroub

BEIRUT: Declar­ing that it was time to end the threat posed by mil­i­tant groups en­trenched on the rugged out­skirts of the north­east­ern town of Ar­sal, Hezbol­lah leader Sayyed Hasan Nas­ral­lah sig­naled Tues­day that his party would launch a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion to lib­er­ate the area from mil­i­tant groups.

It was the clear­est in­di­ca­tion yet about Hezbol­lah’s readi­ness to carry out a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion to oust Daesh (ISIS) and Jab­hat Fatah alSham, whose pres­ence on Ar­sal’s out­skirts, he said, is pos­ing an aroundthe-clock threat to all the Le­banese.

In a tele­vised speech mark­ing Iraq’s lib­er­a­tion of Mo­sul from Daesh, Nas­ral­lah said there was “a last chance” for the mil­i­tant groups to reach “spe­cific set­tle­ments or rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” to leave Ar­sal’s out­skirts peace­fully to ar­eas of their choice.

“It’s time to end the threat posed by armed groups on Ar­sal’s out­skirts. There is very lit­tle time [for mil­i­tant groups] to reach spe­cific set­tle­ments or rec­on­cil­i­a­tion,” Nas­ral­lah said. “All Daesh net­works have been di­rected from Raqqa in Syria. The groups that ex­ist on Ar­sal’s out­skirts are ex­ec­u­tive groups that re­ceive in­struc­tions from Raqqa or Mo­sul.”

Nas­ral­lah praised the Le­banese Army’s lat­est pre-emp­tive strike on June 30 against mil­i­tant groups in two Syr­ian refugee en­camp­ments in Ar­sal near the bor­der with Syria. But he warned that the sit­u­a­tion on Ar­sal’s out­skirts has reached “a fi­nal point” that needs a so­lu­tion.

“It has been con­firmed that there are those run­ning ter­ror­ist net­works and sui­cide bombers and ready­ing ex­plo­sive de­vices in­side Ar­sal … But on the out­skirts [of Ar­sal], there is a real prob­lem. A por­tion of the sui­cide bombers are com­ing from the out­skirts to the town along with ex­plo­sive de­vices,” he said.

“The threat still ex­ists on [Ar­sal’s] out­skirts and this mat­ter needs a so­lu­tion. This mat­ter might be a di­vi­sive one. Let the govern­ment shoul­der its re­spon­si­bil­ity and we will sup­port you and back you up,” he said, adding: “If you want us to stay at home, we will, and if you want us to join you, we will. But I think this sit­u­a­tion has reached its fi­nal point.”

To make his point clear, Nas­ral­lah said: “This is the last time I’ll talk about the out­skirts of Ar­sal. In the end, those present there are pos­ing an around-the-clock threat for all the Le­banese and Le­banese ar­eas.”

Nas­ral­lah greatly ap­pre­ci­ated the “huge ef­forts” made by the Le­banese Army and other se­cu­rity agen­cies to crack down on sleeper ter­ror­ist cells. “There is no doubt of what hap­pened on the Ar­sal out­skirts ... has sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced these dan­gers, but have not ended them.”

“Had these net­works and sui­cide bombers been able to carry out their plots, the se­cu­rity, eco­nomic and tourism sit­u­a­tion would have been very dif­fi­cult,” Nas­ral­lah said.

He added that the cur­rent se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity in Le­banon were not be­cause Daesh, Al-Qaeda or the Jab­hat Fatah al-Sham did not want to desta­bi­lize the coun­try, but due to the huge ef­forts made to ex­pose the ter­ror net­works and their fi­nanciers, sup­port­ers and lead­ers, the lat­est of which was ex­posed by the Army In­tel­li­gence in Ar­sal.

Re­spond­ing to crit­ics of the Army fol­low­ing the death of four Syr­ian de­tainees in its cus­tody, Nas­ral­lah said that while “mis­takes could have been made” and it should not be used as a way to at­tack those who “spend night and day” main­tain­ing sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity in Le­banon.

Nas­ral­lah’s re­marks came a day af­ter Prime Min­is­ter Saad Hariri strongly op­posed Hezbol­lah’s re­ported plans to launch a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion to evict mil­i­tant groups holed up on Ar­sal’s out­skirts.

He re­it­er­ated Hezbol­lah’s call on the govern­ment to talk to the Syr­ian govern­ment to co­or­di­nate the re­turn of Syr­ian refugees to their coun­try, a di­vi­sive is­sue that has se­ri­ously jolted Cabi­net unity.

“We have called in the past and anew on the Le­banese govern­ment to con­tact the Syr­ian govern­ment and ne­go­ti­ate with it to fa­cil­i­tate the re­turn of dis­placed Syr­i­ans to their homes and vil­lages,” Nas­ral­lah said, adding that Syr­i­ans are dis­persed across Le­banon.

“The bur­den is on Syr­i­ans, who live in ter­ri­ble con­di­tions … but also on the [Le­banese] towns,” he said.

“Sadly, this dis­cus­sion has be­come po­lit­i­cal,” Nas­ral­lah said, hit­ting back at Le­banese politi­cians who say co­op­er­at­ing with the Syr­ian regime would le­git­imize it.

“To­day the regime in Syria has em­bassies around the world … with only a few ex­cep­tions. They have an am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions … the for­mer French pres­i­dent dele­git­imized him, and now the cur­rent one le­git­imized him,” Nas­ral­lah ex­plained. “They [Syr­ian govern­ment] doesn’t need le­git­i­macy; it is al­ready le­git­i­mate.”

“For po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic re­gions, we call for the dis­placed to re­turn be­cause it is in the in­ter­est of [both] the dis­placed and the Le­banese peo­ple,” he con­cluded, dis­miss­ing claims that re­turn­ing refugees would “end up in jail.”

Ac­cord­ing to Le­banese govern­ment es­ti­mates, there are 1.5 mil­lion Syr­ian refugees liv­ing in Le­banon, strain­ing the coun­try’s bat­tered econ­omy and weak in­fra­struc­ture and pos­ing se­cu­rity threats. Dozens of Syr­ian fam­i­lies re­turned to their coun­try in June in a deal bro­kered be­tween Hezbol­lah and Syr­ian rebel fac­tions.

On an­other topic, Nas­ral­lah de­fended Hariri’s Cabi­net, say­ing it should re­main in power to ad­dress the peo­ple’s ur­gent is­sues. He re­jected at­tempts to reshuffle the Cabi­net or top­ple it.

“Le­banon’s supreme na­tional in­ter­est lies in the con­tin­u­a­tion of the cur­rent govern­ment and re­ac­ti­va­tion of its work. No dis­pute over any is­sue should lead to the Cabi­net’s fall or a threat by any min­is­ter to with­draw from it,” he said.

Nas­ral­lah also called on Par­lia­ment to meet to ap­prove the 2017 draft state bud­get and the pub­lic sec­tor’s salary hike bill.

He voiced sup­port for the “Baabda Doc­u­ment” en­dorsed by the coun­try’s top lead­ers at their meet­ing at Baabda Palace to re­vive the leg­isla­tive and ex­ec­u­tive branches fol­low­ing months of paral­y­sis caused by ri­vals’ dis­cord over a new elec­toral law.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lebanon

© PressReader. All rights reserved.