Lebanese ready to take up arms against Syrian insurgents

In the office of the former general turned self-styled humanitarian, concerned locals and Syrian refugees talk of taking up arms to defend a country they believe the national army will not.

“If you do not protect our land, we will create a resistance to protect our land,” said former general Hameed Hamoud, outlining the message he had been trying to deliver to the government in Beirut concerning repeated incursions by the Syrian military into Lebanese territory.

“We’ve been trying to make them aware that if they do nothing it will create chaos across our country.”

In his small office in Tripoli, the northern port that is Lebanon’s poorest city and the stronghold of Sunni support for former prime minister Saad Hariri, MPs from Hariri’s Future Movement nodded their approval while a delegation from the eastern Bekaa Valley border town of Arsal had travelled more than 100km to voice their concerns.

Also present was a representative of the estimated 5,000 Syrians who have fled to Lebanon to escape the government’s brutal crackdown on protesters demanding President Bashar al-Assad step down. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says more than 3,500 people have died since the uprising began in March.

Since the initial influx, hundreds of Syrians have gone back, but others continue coming and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says more than 3,500 Syrians are registered in Lebanon. Because many are not official, actual numbers are likely to be higher. In addition, registered or not, the Lebanese government considers Syrians in the country to be internally displaced, leaving them with an ambiguous legal status.

Ransacking in Arsal

According to activists, both legal and illegal crossings are closely guarded, and escapees are risking their lives, whether entering or leaving Lebanon. Indeed, the delegation from Arsal claimed the Syrian military had been crossing the non-demarcated border into Lebanon almost daily over the past few months, shooting at water tanks and ransacking farmhouses.

“They are looking for Syrians but there are no Syrians there. It’s like they want to mobilize people to fight back,” said Ahmed al-Fleete, deputy mayor of Arsal. “People there are farmers, not military. But if they have their own guns they might shoot back.”

n a later interview, the mayor of Arsal, Ali Hojairi, said locals had been in armed clashes with Syrian troops inside Lebanon three times in the past few months. “If the Lebanese army will not protect us we will use our arms to protect ourselves,” he said.

On 6 October, Syrian troops penetrated Lebanese territory and killed a Syrian national on Lebanese soil, according to a report by the UN Secretary-General on the implementation of Resolution 1559, aimed at strengthening Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence.

The Arsal delegation said they had sent a complaint over the escalation in long-standing border violations by the Syrian military – a subject of concern in the UN report – to their local representatives in the regional capital Baalbek.

But with Baalbek controlled by Shia militant group Hezbollah, a long-standing ally of the Syrian regime, which in June forced the resignation of Hariri’s government, neither Fleete, nor Hamoud nor any of Hariri’s MPs believed concerns over Syrian incursions were being heard by the Hezbollah-led government in Beirut. Syrian defectors and dissidents have also allegedly been arrested by the Lebanese army and sent back to Syria.

“We don’t feel safe in Lebanon,” said the representative of the exiled Syrians, who asked to be known only as Abu Omar.

“Refugees come to my home and now it is watched. I was interrogated by the police who wanted to know why people come and go from my house, saying they would hand me over to Syria.”

No concrete figures exist for the numbers of Syrian refugees who have either been killed by Syrian troops on Lebanese soil or arrested in Lebanon and deported back to Syria.

Help needed

While Lebanon’s Higher Relief Council has been providing some basic assistance to the Syrians, many of whom are housed in disused schools with little or no heating or running water, the government’s refusal to recognize them as refugees means they are not entitled to the full care and protection of UNHCR.

They complain that assistance is waning and that they cannot earn a living for fear of arrest or kidnapping if they leave their shelters.

“We need to make some money,” said one, who has been staying with his wife and children in the remote town of Wadi Khaled, along the Syrian border, in a school-turned-shelter for approximate 400 people. “We tried to leave [Wadi Khaled] for work, but we were stopped by the Lebanese army,” he said.

“Just last week, two of our friends were kidnapped… at night, we are especially scared,” he added.

In October, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati promised to cater to the Syrians’ needs, but Lebanon’s politicians remain divided on Syria’s uprising, and the Lebanese government primarily supports Assad’s clampdown. Rumours of complicity between Lebanese and Syrian authorities abound.

As a result, Syrians are often faced with harsh treatment from Lebanese authorities, according to Nabil Halabi, a Lebanese human rights lawyer. In addition to security threats, daily needs are not adequately met, said Halabi, who has criticized the Lebanese government’s aid to the refugees.

Promises

On 9 November, Lebanon’s President Michel Sleiman said Syrian officials had been in contact and promised to respect Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty. “Syria expressed regret for the unintended violations,” Sleiman said in remarks published by Al-Liwaa newspaper.

He also confirmed Syrian troops had laid mines along sections of the Syrian side of the border, particularly in the northeast. A source close to Sleiman’s office told local English-language The Daily Star that senior Lebanese and Syrian officials had formed a follow-up committee to discuss recent alleged incursions into Lebanon.

Prime Minister Mikati had earlier admitted that Syrian nationals had disappeared on Lebanese soil, while Internal Security Forces Commander Major General Ashraf Rifi alleged his officers had uncovered proof that members of the Syrian Embassy in Beirut had played a role in abductions.

Having resigned from the military in protest at the Hezbollah-led armed takeover of parts of Beirut in May 2008, which the army did nothing to stop, Hamoud accused the Iranian-financed group of serving Syria’s interests by ignoring Syrian military incursions and warned of rival Hariri and Hezbollah groups arming in Tripoli.

IRIN

  • KhalidH

    @antar2011:disqus  Are you game? LOL

    • antar2011

      i dunno what’s funny but i am glad i made you laugh….hopefully you are NOT  laughing AT me. 

      • KhalidH

        No I am not laughing at you and I apologise if I offended you. 
        Some question can’t be asked or answered directly, by being a little vague (and silly) I was trying to find out what a Trabulsi thought on the Issue, (especially how widespread it is) without having to ask the question explicitly.

        • antar2011

          cool bro.

          would i take up arms to defend tripoli/lebanon against syria/Hizbullah proxies?

          well my answer might be different from someone who is actually living there even if both of us are from trablous.

          i would take the example of the syrian uprising and arm myself with patience until we get aid, but again i cannot guarrantee that all pple from Tripoli would do the same.

          i do not think poeple would do the same thing as they did at the start of the civil war when they carried arms to fight the war they have nothing to do with, but being brothers to the palestinians.

          they have learnt the hard way…arab brotherhood is worthless…they have lost their country/children’s future in fighting a war for others.

      • libnan1

        Antar, I usually don’t read your comments but I read the last comment on this this thread and was impressed. I’m glad you as a Sunni realize that what the Sunni leaders did during the civil war was wrong. I also encourage you to remind the new leaders not fall in the same trap. I assure you Sunnis will be well respected under the Aoun administration …:) 

        • 5thDrawer

          As long as they pay big money …. oh, I’m supposed to say taxes … oh, same thing to Aoun …

        • antar2011

          i hope Aounist also learn from their past mistakes.

          i hope you realise that what Aoun did in ’89 was also wrong and what he keeps on doing today and after 2005 is also wrong.

          my friend, EVERYONE did a mistake or two during the civil war, but putting the spotlights on the sunnis ONLY does not only reflect  tunnel vision but it shows the owner of such mentality has not learnt anything from the civil war.

          stop living in the past…everyone has progressed from that except the Aounist.

           what’s incredibly unbelievable is that the Aounist blaim the sunnis for the civil war when they carried arms with their muslim brothers,the palestinians, and sold the country…….. but they fail to see that they are doing exactly the same thing with the shia 3ala 7sseb el balad…

          yet you sit there and have the audacity to lecture the sunnis….look at your own backyard buddy.

          the saying goes: if you have a house made of glass you should not throw stones at pple

          3ajeeb amrak ya libnani1!

    • 5thDrawer

      After a few weeks sleeping in their outpost tents and tanks, the Syrian soldiers are a little ‘game’. Smell them a mile away ….

  • Anonymous

    @antar2011:disqus  Are you game? LOL

    • Anonymous

      i dunno what’s funny but i am glad i made you laugh….hopefully you are NOT  laughing AT me. 

      • Anonymous

        No I am not laughing at you and I apologise if I offended you. 
        Some question can’t be asked or answered directly, by being a little vague (and silly) I was trying to find out what a Trabulsi thought on the Issue, (especially how widespread it is) without having to ask the question explicitly.

        • Anonymous

          cool bro.

          would i take up arms to defend tripoli/lebanon against syria/Hizbullah proxies?

          well my answer might be different from someone who is actually living there even if both of us are from trablous.

          i would take the example of the syrian uprising and arm myself with patience until we get aid, but again i cannot guarrantee that all pple from Tripoli would do the same.

          i do not think poeple would do the same thing as they did at the start of the civil war when they carried arms to fight the war they have nothing to do with, but being brothers to the palestinians.

          they have learnt the hard way…arab brotherhood is worthless…they have lost their country/children’s future in fighting a war for others.

      • Anonymous

        Antar, I usually don’t read your comments but I read the last comment on this this thread and was impressed. I’m glad you as a Sunni realize that what the Sunni leaders did during the civil war was wrong. I also encourage you to remind the new leaders not fall in the same trap. I assure you Sunnis will be well respected under the Aoun administration …:) 

        • Anonymous

          As long as they pay big money …. oh, I’m supposed to say taxes … oh, same thing to Aoun …

        • Anonymous

          i hope Aounist also learn from their past mistakes.

          i hope you realise that what Aoun did in ’89 was also wrong and what he keeps on doing today and after 2005 is also wrong.

          my friend, EVERYONE did a mistake or two during the civil war, but putting the spotlights on the sunnis ONLY does not reflect  tunnel vision but it shows the owner of such mentality has not learnt anything from the civil war.

          stop living in the past…everyone has progressed from that except the Aounist.

           what’s incredibly unbelievable is that the Aounist blaim the sunnis for the civil war when they carried arms with their muslim brothers,the palestinians, and sold the country…….. but they fail to see that they are doing exactly the same thing with the shia 3ala 7sseb el balad…

          yet you sit there and have the audacity to lecture the sunnis….look at your own backyard buddy.

          the saying goes: if you have a house made of glass you should not throw stones at pple

          3ajeeb amrak ya libnani1! 

    • Anonymous

      After a few weeks sleeping in their outpost tents and tanks, the Syrian soldiers are a little ‘game’. Smell them a mile away ….

  • Leborigine

    Shame! Shame! Shame! on the Lebanese army and HA for not protecting our borders. Bas shatreen 3a isra2eel!!
    What a dog of a country. If an israeli citizen crosses the border, they are all up in arms about it and will take them a few years to get over it, but its ok for syrian army to crossover whenever they want and shoot whoever they want while the Lebanese army and HA will not lift an eyebrow about it.

    Seriously, it is easier to understand Schrodingers Cat Theory than Lebanese logic. I wish we could get out of the superposition that we are constantly in!

  • Anonymous

    Shame! Shame! Shame! on the Lebanese army and HA for not protecting our borders. Bas shatreen 3a isra2eel!!
    What a dog of a country. If an israeli citizen crosses the border, they are all up in arms about it and will take them a few years to get over it, but its ok for syrian army to crossover whenever they want and shoot whoever they want while the Lebanese army and HA will not lift an eyebrow about it.

    Seriously, it is easier to understand Schrodingers Cat Theory than Lebanese logic. I wish we could get out of the superposition that we are constantly in!

  • 5thDrawer

    The Lebanese police wouldn’t even come to the rescue of a baby left on a street – maybe just as well. And yet, after a week my friend, who could not stand to see it die there, still tries to find someone. Seems the orphanage is ‘full’.
     And besides … that baby had no ‘papers’, they said.  Really .. no papers. 🙁 
    Thinking of this, why would anyone care about refugees?

  • Anonymous

    The Lebanese police wouldn’t even come to the rescue of a baby left on a street – maybe just as well. And yet, after a week my friend, who could not stand to see it die there, still tries to find someone. Seems the orphanage is ‘full’.
     And besides … that baby had no ‘papers’, they said.  Really .. no papers. 🙁 
    Thinking of this, why would anyone care about refugees?