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August 26, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8910

Lebanese Figures Demand That Hizbullah Arsenals Across The Country Be Dismantled

August 26, 2020
Lebanon | Special Dispatch No. 8910

Since the blast at the port of Beirut, in which 177 people were killed and over 6,000 were injured, Lebanese figures have been expressing concern that one of Hizbullah's arsenals across the country, some of which are situated in residential neighborhoods, might explode in a similar manner. These figures, including local council members in the Mount Lebanon Governorate, as well as the leader of Lebanon's Christian community, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, demand that the state deal with these arsenals or even confiscate them before another disaster occurs.  

This report reviews some of these calls.


(Source: S.annahar.digital)

Local Council Members Resign After Their Demand For Dismantling Hizbullah's Arsenals Is Ignored

On August 19, 2020, 11 of the 15 members of the town council of Ba'abda Al-Louaize, located in the Mount Lebanon Governorate, announced their collective resignation to protest against the disregard of their demand that Hizbullah's arsenals, which they said may be situated near their town, be addressed.

The previous week, on August 13, 2020, the members of the town council of Ba'abda Al-Louaize demanded in a letter to council head Antoine Elias Al-Helou that he appeal to the interior minister and to the military leadership and warn them of the possibility of an explosion in the area because Hizbullah may be storing its weapons and missiles there. The letter stated:

"Distinguished Ba'abda Al-Louaize council head Mr. Antoine Elias Al-Helou: The undersigned members of the council request that you appeal in writing to the minister of the interior and municipalities... and to the military leadership... to express the concerns of the council and of the area's residents in the matter of the likelihood of an explosion in the vicinity of Ba'abda, particularly near Saint Charles Hospital, as was stated two months ago by the prime minister of the Israeli enemy Benjamin Netanyahu at a public press conference."[1]

It added: "A verbal appeal will be ineffective and will have no impact if any explosion does take place, heaven forfend. It is necessary to deliver such a letter [to the minister and the military leadership] in order to absolve the council head and the council members of responsibility [for the explosion], to prevent damage, and to protect [the] lives and property [of the citizens] in the Ba'abda Al-Louaize area."[2]


The Ba'abda Al-Louaize town council letter (Source: Twitter.com/daou_rimane, August, 17, 2020)

The Lebanese Al-Akhbar daily reported that the letter had sparked fear among the residents of the town, who thronged to the council building to express their concern, and added that some of them had even abandoned their homes.[3]

However, Al-Helou rejected the request, even accusing the council members of stirring up unwarranted media buzz and of being influenced by partisan considerations connected to the elections. He went so far as to accuse them of pandering to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.[4]

Subsequently, the council members who signed the letter were investigated by military intelligence, including a seven-hour interrogation. According to council member Elias Bou Khalil, instead of warning the minister or the military leadership, "the council head informed against us to military intelligence, [saying] that our demand serves Netanyahu's purposes. Therefore, all the council member signatories were summoned [by the army]... and six of them were interrogated at the Ministry of Defense. For seven hours, they were the focus of an investigation which centered on where they had obtained the information in their possession..."[5]

Following the investigation, the Lebanese Army announced: "The Military Intelligence Division heard out the members of the council from the Ba'abda Al-Louaize area, in an attempt to obtain an explanation about the concerns of the residents of the town and of the council members about the likelihood of any kind of explosion in the area, especially nearby Saint Charles Hospital, following the false claims issued by the enemy Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a past press conference concerning the existence of weapons and ammunition in the aforementioned area." The statement added that military intelligence had examined the area in question and found these claims to be false.[6]


Lebanese Army statement (Source: Twitter.com/LebarmyOfficial, August 18, 2020)

The army's announcement was apparently unconvincing, and, as noted, on August 19, 11 of the 15 council members announced their collective resignation.[7]

Lebanese Patriarch: It Is Time These Arsenals Were "Confiscated, So That The Civilians Will Feel Safe, At Least In Their Own Homes"

A few days after the council members' resignation, during an August 23 mass, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi also called on Lebanon's authorities to address the issue of arsenals scattered throughout the country and hidden within residential neighborhoods, hinting at Hizbullah. He said:

"The pain and tears of the victims of the [Beirut port] explosion are a cry to the heart of God and become His [directive] to every individual in charge... [and] particularly to the Lebanese authorities, to consider the Beirut port disaster as a warning bell. Thus, they [i.e. the authorities] must hasten to raid all the hiding places of weapons and explosives, and the storage depots situated illegally in residential neighborhoods in cities, towns, and villages. Some regions of Lebanon have become minefields and there is no knowing when they will explode, or who will detonate them. The existence of these hiding places is a grave threat to the lives of civilians, which  are not the property of any man, group, or organization. It is time for these weapons and explosives to be confiscated, so that the civilians will feel safe, at least in their own homes..."[8]

 

[1] It is not clear which statement by Prime Minister Netanyahu is referenced. However, on July 14, 2020, the Israeli English-language newspaper The Jerusalem Post published a report from the Alma Research and Education Center with information on 28 Hizbullah arsenals and positions with missile launch capabilities situated in residential neighborhoods in Beirut; one of these is adjacent to Saint Charles Hospital (Israel-alma.org). Also, in September 2018, in his speech at the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu revealed information about Hizbullah missile facilities situated at several focal points in Beirut, including some near Beirut's international airport and residential neighborhoods in the city. The Israeli army subsequently published photographs and maps of these facilities. Moreover, on August 11, 2020, following a phone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, Netanyahu tweeted: "In order to prevent disasters such as the one at Beirut Port, the explosives and the missiles hidden away by Hizbullah must be removed from civilian population centers in Lebanon." (Twitter.com/IsraeliPM_heb).

[2] Alhurra.com, August 20, 2020; Annahar.com, August 21, 2020; Twitter.com/daou_rimane, August 17, 2020.

[3] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), August 25, 2020.

[4] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), August 20, 2020.

[5] Annahar.com, August 21, 2020.

[6] Twitter.com/LebarmyOfficial, August 18, 2020.

[7] Lebanondebate.com, August 19, 2020.

[8] Annahar.com, August 23, 2020.

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