05/18/2021, 18.45
LEBANON - GAZA
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Patriarch al-Rahi against Lebanon being used as a ‘launch pad’ for rockets against Israel

by Fady Noun

For the Lebanese Church, a war would be a “coup de grace” for a country already on its knees. Rockets have been launched from Lebanese territory, which could lead to involvement in the conflict. The UNIFIL mission calls for calm. Palestinian refugee camps call for a general solidarity strike.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – While condemning Israel’s violent attacks, Lebanon’s Maronite Church has warned against Lebanon getting involved in the ongoing conflict between Israel and the joint forces of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, which has already claimed the lives of more than 200 people in one week.

Following an isolated rocket attack from Lebanon against northern Israel, the Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Al-Rahi, called on Lebanese authorities to “control the border and prevent Lebanese territory from being used as a missile launch pad.”  

The Lebanese army, in coordination with UNIFIL, is working to boost security in the border region. Hezbollah, for its part, has carefully avoided getting militarily involved in incidents, while supporting the general movement in support of the Palestinians.

Speaking about the tense situation in the border region in recent days, due to the war between the Jewish state and Hamas, the Patriarch said: “We must prevent Lebanon from getting involved, whether directly or through certain parties, in what is currently going on, which could plunge the country into new wars.”

The head of the Maronite Church has for months deplored the country’s actual “descent into hell”, and the political stalemate that has prevented the establishment of a new government since August 2020. “A war with Israel would give Lebanon the coup de grace,” say circles close to the Maronite patriarchal see.

On Monday, several attempts were made to fire rockets against Israel from Lebanon, but none reached the territory of the Jewish state, sign that these are isolated incidents. However, in retaliation, the Israeli army still fired “in the direction of the point of launch” of the rockets.

In Beirut, a Lebanese military source told AFP that “three Grad-type rockets were fired from the area of the ‘Shabaa Farms’, a disputed area on the border between the two countries.”

This was the second attempt since hostilities between the Israeli army and Hamas began in Gaza. The first time, rockets fired from the coast near Tyre fell into the sea. Hezbollah did not comment on any of the incidents.

Last Friday however, the Israeli army opened fire on demonstrators who were trying to damage and cross the security fence on its northern border, killing a Hezbollah member, Mohammad Tahhan, 21, who was particularly fearless. Unfortunately, he was hit by shrapnel, and died after being hospitalised.

The day after this sad incident was the 73rd anniversary of the “Nakba”, the “disaster”, i.e. the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. Hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinian protesters gathered in Adaisseh, at the foot of the concrete wall erected by the Jewish state, to shout their support for Palestine.

Protesters threw projectiles at the border wall, some crossing the first barrier between Lebanese territory and the concrete wall erected by Israel; others climbed the concrete wall at Kfar Kila and destroyed the surveillance cameras of the “Israeli enemy”.

These demonstrations took place without any notable incidents. However, a confrontation broke out at the Fatima Gate, a former crossing point between Lebanon and Israel, between security forces and the Lebanese army, after demonstrators tried to cross the checkpoint set up by the army.

UNIFIL calls for calm

United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) spokesperson Andrea Tenenti reacted to the renewed tension at the border on Tuesday, retweeting statements from UNIFIL.

“UNIFIL Head @stefanodelcol  was immediately in contact with counterparts in the @LebarmyOfficial and IDF commands urging the parties to exercise maximum restraint in order to prevent any escalation of the situation. The IDF has now stopped the fire.”

“UNIFIL in coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces is enhancing security control in the area and has intensified patrols to prevent any further incidents that endanger the safety of the local population and the security of southern Lebanon’.”

“#UNIFIL is supporting the @LebarmyOfficial in the search operation in the area. UNIFIL Head of Mission remains in contact with the parties to ensure stability in the area and decrease the existing tension. The situation in the area is now calm.”

General solidarity strike in the camps

Meanwhile, Palestinian camps in Lebanon responded on Tuesday to a call for a general strike by Palestinian leaders to protest “Israeli aggression against civilians in Palestine, especially in Gaza, and threats of expulsion of Palestinians in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood,” reports the South Lebanon correspondent for Lebanon’s French-language daily L’Orient-Le Jour.

A demonstration in solidarity with Palestine is planned in Beirut this afternoon.

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