Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Hariri revealed that he and President Michel Aoun decided to allow the Islamic State jihadists to “cross the border” into Syria as part of a ceasefire agreement, but stressed hat “their transfer in air conditioned buses to eastern Syria was decided by Hezbollah and the Syrian regime .”
“Our main priority was the safety of our troops,” Hariri told France’s Le Monde daily when asked how “300 IS militants managed to leave the Qalamun region safely.”
“A major anti-IS battle occurred in 2014 and a number of soldiers were abducted and killed by IS. We didn’t know where they were buried and we did not want anyone else to get killed, that’s why we tightened our siege and they (IS militants) suggested negotiations,” Hariri explained.
“They gave us information about the location of the soldiers’ bodies and, in return, these fighters were allowed to leave the Lebanese territory , along with their families and without fighting,” he added.
“What’s important to us is that IS has no presence in Lebanon anymore,” the PM added.
The controversial deal that was negotiated between IS and Hezbollah has been criticized inside Lebanon, as well by the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS in Syria and Iraq and especially by Baghdad, which protested that the IS terrorists were being brought to its doorstep. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has argued that the deal was necessary to acquire information about the fate of Lebanese soldiers taken hostage by IS three years ago.
No missile factories in Lebanon
Hariri was also asked about Israel’s allegations that Iran has built secret Hezbollah-run missile factories in Lebanon.
“The Israelis know very well that there are no missile factories in Lebanon. They are used to launching these disinformation campaigns. They claim that Hezbollah is in control of Lebanon and this is not true. Hezbollah has a presence — it is present in the government and it enjoys support in the country — but this does not mean thatHezbollah is in control of entire Lebanon,” Hariri emphasized.
“Our problem with Israel is that its leaders always talk about war and security but never about peace,” Hariri added.
Asked whether Syrian refugees in Lebanon should “return to their country,” the prime minister said: “In Lebanon, some are saying that we should restore ties with Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Look at Iraq, Jordan and Egypt. These countries have ties with the Syria regime but despite that, refugees there have not returned to Syria.”
“They will not return home as long as the current regime is present there. As long as I’m not given a green light from the U.N. for a safe return by the refugees, I will not do anything,” Hariri added.
According to analysts Hariri is trying cover up for the failure of the government in allowing Hezbollah to negotiate a deal that allowed the IS terrorists to return the bodies of the Lebanese soldiers in coffins while the terrorists were allowed to return to Syria in air conditioned buses .
The analysts also disagreed with Hariri over Hezbollah’s role and claim that Hezbollah is in control of Lebanon.
Ever since the 2006 war with Israel the Iranian backed militant group has been trying to control the war and peace decisions in Lebanon.
Five Hezbollah operatives are being tried by the UN backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon for killing Saad Hariri’s father former PM Rafik Hariri in 2005 . In May 2008 Hezbollah occupied the western part of Beirut and tried but failed to occupy Mount Lebanon . Hezbollah also held the country hostage for 30 months over the election of a president .
Hezbollah also is fighting in Syria alongside the forces loyal the Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad despite the Baabda agreement which called for distancing Lebanon from regional conflicts, the analysts concluded