06/30/2016, 09.03
LEBANON - SYRIA
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Al-Qaa bids farewell to victims as archbishop urges declaring outskirts a 'military zone'

The entire community bid farewell to five of its members died during 27 June attacks. In his homily the greek-Melkite Archbishop stressed: "We will remain in this land". He asked government to solve the emergency situation in the refugee camp on the outskirts of the town. Local sources: the aim of the bombers is to eradicate Christian presence.

 

Beirut (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The restive eastern border town of al-Qaa bid farewell Wednesday to five of its sons who were killed before dawn Monday in unprecedented multiple suicide bombings, as the region's Christian spiritual leader called for turning the neighboring area of Masharii al-Qaa into a “military zone.”

Faysal Aad, Joseph Lebbos, Majed Wehbe, Boulos al-Ahmar and George Fares were laid to rest at the town's cemetery after a highly emotional funeral that was held amid strict security measures.

The funeral had been postponed to Wednesday over security fears, after the town was hit by two waves of attacks on Monday.

Four suicide bombers targeted the town in the pre-dawn attack, killing five people and wounding 15 others, as another four bombers attacked the town in the evening and wounded 13 people. One of the suicide bombers blew himself up in front of the greek-Melkite church.

“We will remain in this land and we will not budge, even if we offer 100 martyrs everyday,” a defiant Elias Rahal, Greek Catholic Archbishop of Baalbek, said at the funeral. “We will not be intimidated by the takfiris or their bombings,” he vowed.

Rahal also called on the government to “organize those who are around us,” in reference to the displaced Syrians who live in unofficial encampments outside the town. “There are 20,000 refugees who go wherever they want freely,” the archbishop warned, stressing the need for “blocking the gaps” through which the attackers might have infiltrated the town. “The Masharii al-Qaa area must be fully turned into a military zone to prevent another tragedy,” Rahal added.

According to the faithful the aim of the bombers is to clear al-Qaa the Christian presence. Dany Awad, vice-president of the municipality, warns: "We are not afraid of anyone. We will stay here, to defend our village, to the end. We are rooted in this sacred land and no one can rip off until we are alive.”

Al-Qaa is one of several border posts separating Lebanon and war-torn Syria. 

The border area has been rocked by clashes and shelling since Syria's conflict erupted in 2011.

Sectarian tensions in Lebanon have been stoked by the civil war in Syria.

Lebanon's army has fought off jihadist factions along the frontier and has sought to clamp down on local cells operating in the area.

On Tuesday, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq said the refugee encampments had “nothing to do” with the bombers, saying the attackers came from “their emirate in Syria,” as Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji said they included “a woman and three Syrians.”

Meanwhile, the Vatican's ambassador to Lebanon Gabriele Caccia, who attended the funeral, warned that "we must never be dragged into violence.”

Lebanon hosts more than 1.1 million Syrians, a huge burden for the country of four million people. Several Lebanese politicians have warned about the inability of the country to bear this burden and had already called for the closure of borders after security incidents.

 

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