Lebanese villagers arm themselves against Syrian militants


lebanon map beqaa- baalbeckBEKAA VALLEY: Christians living near the Syrian border in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley have begun arming themselves against extremist groups.

Volunteers have created village defence forces to safeguard their communities from the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra group and Islamic State militants seeking to expand their territorial control outside of Syria.

Men from the border village of Qaa keep watch from the hills that surround their home at night. The border with Syria is where extremists groups multiply and prepare their battle routes.

“They tried to attack and enter the village but we stopped them. Then two weeks later, they tried again, and again we stopped them,” said Abu George, a resident of Qaa who joined the village defence forces. “This is why we left our jobs. How can you work when your family, your community is in danger?”

Abu George added that his village received threats after Jabhat al-Nusra attacked and destroyed the Christian city of Maaloula, in Syria, a year ago.

Following recent clashes between militants and the Lebanese army, and the subsequent capture of 27 Lebanese soldiers and policemen, the men said they are taking no chances.

The militiamen said they have no intention of launching an attack but warned that they will not allow Islamic State fighters into their villages.

They have been working alongside the Lebanese army to protect their land. Concerned villagers would alert surrounding military checkpoints when they spot something suspicious.

“Every night, 400 men stand ready to help the Lebanese army,” said Elias Mansour, resident of Ras Baalbek village. “We are not afraid and we will not leave our house and land.”

Ras Baalbek and Qaa are only a few kilometres away from Syria.

Stricter security measures
In a related development Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq requested on Saturday security agencies to begin implementing the state-approved strict measures limiting the flow of Syrian refugees into Lebanon, al-Mustaqbal newspaper reported on Sunday.

It said that the minister ordered the concerned officials to prepare to implement the measures starting January 5.

A ministerial committee tasked with following up on the Syrian refugee file devised the measures, which call for compelling any Syrian entering the country to complete a form explaining the reasons for entering Lebanon and to submit proper identification documents .

These conditions also include Syrians who are not seeking to travel to Lebanon as refugees.

No more refugees

Lebanon has been struggling to support the burden of around 1.5. million Syrian refugees that have been pouring into the country since the eruption of the Syrian conflict in March 2011.

The government recently introduced restrictions on refugees in an attempt to limit their numbers.

Lebanon has shut its frontiers to new refugees except humanitarian cases.

Channel news Asia/YL