President Michel Suleiman called the attacks “terrorist crimes,” saying they came “at a time the Lebanese are looking to the army in all regions as the guarantor of security, stability and civil peace, ” according to a presidential statement.
The statement added that Suleiman was in contact with concerned officials “to take all necessary measures to fight terrorism.”
An army communique reveled that three suspects were passing on foot through a checkpoint at al-Awwali bridge at Sidon’s entrance at 9:00 pm Sunday when a soldier asked for their identification papers.
One of the suspects threatened him with a grenade, which blew up when the soldier opened fire on him, it said.
The suspect was killed and two soldiers at the checkpoint were injured. The other two suspects escaped.
Forty five minutes later, a Palestinian blew himself up near an army checkpoint in the Majdelyoun area, killing himself and a sergeant, and wounding a soldier.
Two other Lebanese suspects, who were in a GM Envoy SUV , also died when members of the checkpoint opened fire on them.
“We condemn these two terrorist attacks … that targeted the military institution, which defends Lebanon and the Lebanese, and constitutes the shield of sovereignty and independence,” Caretaker Premier Najib Mikati said in a statement.
He appealed for support to the army and the rest of the security forces, saying “no one should be allowed to tamper with security and target the role of the military institution.”
Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam also condemned the attacks and called in a statement for a “swift” probe to find the collaborators of the dead suspects and punish them.
“The army was and will always be the defensive structure of Lebanon and the Lebanese, and the guarantor of their security and stability,” he said in a statement.
“Any attack on its members under any circumstance is a bald assault on the Lebanese people and the entire nation,” he said.
Salam urged the Lebanese, in general, and Sidon residents, in particular, to “support the army and facilitate its mission” to stop those plotting to harm the institution and cause a gap between it and the people.
Former Lebanese PM and Future movement leader Saad Hariri also condemned the attacks and said they were at the top of the list of “chaos.”
Hariri called for unity with the army, saying it was “the duty of every citizen who believes in the state and the role of the military institution to be in solidarity with it.”
“Sidon will not allow under any circumstance to be dragged again to a confrontation with the Lebanese army,” he said in reference to the bloody clashes between supporters of Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir and the military in the coastal city of Sidon last June.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea also condemned the “blatant” attack against troops, considering that Sunday’s events reassert that weapons must be exclusively in the hands of the state.
“The attack against the army in Sidon on Sunday shows the necessity of the state being the sole possessor of arms on Lebanese territory,” Geagea said in a statement.
He added: “The state must prevent, even if it has to use force, security incidents that threaten stability.”
“The possession and the use of arms trigger people to get armed and soldiers and the Lebanese are paying the price.” He said.