BEIRUT: Thirty-one reformist, independent, and opposition MPs expressed their concern on Friday about a military maneuver carried out by Hezbollah in the town of Aaramta in southern Lebanon.
The MPs said they believe such a maneuver, which they described as typical of the militia’s longstanding practices, “contradicts the concept of the state.”
In a statement, the MPs argued that Hezbollah’s maneuver challenged the majority of Lebanese citizens and went against the Arab Summit declaration in Jeddah.
They perceived it as an assertion by Hezbollah that its sovereignty surpasses that of the state, implying that no decision in Lebanon can contradict the party’s will or that of the regional axis it aligns with.
The MPs said the lives and future of the Lebanese people were being “held hostage” by Hezbollah’s project.
But the MPs also stressed that Hezbollah cannot impose its political, military, security, and economic agendas on the Lebanese state, regardless of how much it undermines the foundations of the state’s existence.
They argued that Lebanon, as a state, could not coexist with Hezbollah as a fiefdom. They said it was an “urgent duty” to resolve the issue by ending Hezbollah’s armed status through the implementation of the Taif Agreement and the constitution derived from it, which called for the dissolution of militias.
The MPs emphasized the need to adhere to UN resolutions 1559 and 1701 — putting an end to Hezbollah’s military and security interventions abroad — and to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of Arab countries. Doing so would help restore Lebanon’s historical relations with the international and Arab communities, they said.
Additionally, the MPs called for the dismantling of Hezbollah’s parallel economy, which they claimed had been built through smuggling via legal and illegal crossings, promoting tax evasion, and facilitating corruption.
They demanded that Hezbollah engage in political activities like other Lebanese parties, operating within the framework of the constitution, Lebanese laws, democracy, and respect for public freedoms.
Hezbollah participates in the Lebanese parliament through a bloc consisting of 13 MPs, and it has allies in parliament, most notably the bloc of speaker Nabih Berri, which comprises 15 MPs.
In a televised speech, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah reiterated his commitment to the “equation of the army, the people, and the resistance,” stating that he considered it a “crucial source” of strength for Lebanon.
Nasrallah responded to threats made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following Hezbollah’s military maneuver, saying: “It is not you who threatens us with a major war, rather we are the ones threatening you.”
The repercussions of Hezbollah’s military maneuver were felt in the Lebanese military court trial of retired officer George Nader and retired soldier Youssef Al-Fleiti. The two were charged with wearing army-issue camouflage trousers, military caps, and T-shirts bearing the army logo during protest movements conducted by retired military personnel. These protests centered around concerns over living conditions, the loss of value in their pensions, and the reduction of social benefits.
Nader criticized the prosecution’s claim against him and others, stating: “I have been wearing military uniform for 35 years.”
He questioned the prosecution’s reaction to military displays by armed individuals who wore uniforms closely resembling Lebanese military attire, referring to Hezbollah men.
Brig. Gen. Khalil Jabr, the president of the court, considered the trial of Nader and Al-Fleiti as an evaluation of both themselves and the history of the military institution to which they belong.
He expressed gratitude for their efforts within the military establishment, emphasizing their special place in the hearts of the Lebanese people.
Jabr dismissed the charges against Nader and Al-Fleiti, citing a lack of criminal intent. Jabr’s decision is seen as a unique and unprecedented event in Lebanon.
In another development, caretaker Minister of Social Affairs Hector Hajjar opposed the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ request to provide assistance to registered Syrian refugees in US dollars instead of the Lebanese national currency.
Addressing the press, he said such a move would be unfair to the Lebanese population, who are receiving minimal assistance, if any, and certainly not in US dollars. Hajjar reiterated his call for cash assistance to be distributed in Syria as a means to encourage refugees to return to their home country.
The UNHCR emphasized that cash assistance provided to registered individuals was exclusively in Lebanese pounds, with the available funding covering only 43 percent of the refugees in need.
Reports are circulating about a new deportation campaign targeting Syrians who entered Lebanon illegally but are registered with the UNHCR. These individuals, who are opponents or defectors of the Syrian regime forces, were apprehended by Lebanese security and military forces.
In April, Lebanon deported around 40 Syrians who had illegally crossed its land borders, leading to international condemnation due to concerns about the potential risks they might face on returning to Syria.
The UNHCR estimates that there are around 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and that less than half of them are registered with the agency.
Hezbollah and its allies continue to insist that Lebanon needs to maintain contact with Syrian authorities to coordinate the return of refugees.
Nasrallah said this matter required a high-level government delegation to engage in “substantive and meaningful discussions” in Syria.
On Friday, Brig. Gen. Elias Al-Baysari, acting general director of general security, met Nasri Khoury, secretary-general of the Lebanese-Syrian Supreme Council, to discuss the issue.
Earlier, Al-Baysari had visited Damascus in coordination with the Lebanese government to discuss the return of refugees with Syrian officials.