The Lebanese army says it is fully prepared to repel all types of threats amid Saudi Arabia’s growing pressure and reports of an Israeli plan for a new war on the Arab country.
“The army is today stronger than at any time before. Security on the border [with Syria] and inside the country is under control,” army chief Jean Kahwagi said on Monday.
The Lebanese army has been fighting militants near the border with Syria, amid fears of a spillover of the conflict being waged by Takfiri groups to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
Last month, Saudi Arabia suspended billions of dollars in financial pledge to Beirut, prompting warnings that the decision might undermine the Lebanon’s battle against terrorists and threats by Israel.
Kahwagi dismissed those fears. He said the army would strike with an “iron fist” at any attempt aimed at reviving plans to spread chaos, divisions and partition, or destroy Lebanon’s national unity, The Daily Star reported.
“The Army will remain at the highest level of readiness on all fronts of responsibility and duty: From fighting terrorism on the border, to defending against Israel and its schemes, to spreading security and stability in the interior,” he said.
In August 2014, al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and Daesh terrorists overran the eastern town of Arsal, killing a number of Lebanese forces. They took 30 soldiers hostage, most of whom have been released.
A Daesh bombing also killed at least 47 people in the southern part of the capital Beirut in November last year.
Kahwagi said, “The Army will remain at the highest level of readiness on all fronts of responsibility and duty.”
“Our decision is firm in preventing the regional ball of fire from rolling into Lebanon,” he added.
Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam has called for national unity and on political groups to “take into consideration the Arab consensus during the difficult and delicate crisis the country is passing through.”
His call late last month came in the face of Saudi pressures which have further divided the country.
Israel seizing on vacuum?
Last week, Beirut-based al-Akhbar newspaper said Israel was seeking to launch a new war on Lebanon in the wake of the Saudi decision.
It said American officials, whose names were not mentioned in the report, had warned Beirut of the prospect of an Israeli war.
Israel launched two wars on Lebanon in 2000 and 2006. About 1,200 Lebanese, most of them civilians, lost their lives during the 33-day war in the summer of 2006.
A picture shows a Hezbollah fighter aiming his weapon at militant positions on the Syrian side of the Qalamoun hills. ©AFP
Hezbollah is credited with driving Israeli troops out of southern Lebanon and defeating them in subsequent wars.
It is also helping the Syrian army fight Takfiri militants in a war which the resistance movement sees crucial to preventing the conflict from spilling over to Lebanon.
Hezbollah has said Riyadh was targeting Lebanon out of anger over its failures in Syria and Yemen.
“In Syria, there’s a very great Saudi anger because what they had calculated in Syria in two or three months, ‘Syria would fall into our hands,’” Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday.