by Caroline Akoum
Government security forces to take over responsibility for security of the Hezbollah stronghold in southern Beirut on Monday, a response to growing complaints about "self security."
Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Lebanese government has decided to take over responsibility for security in the Hezbollah stronghold of Dahieh, in southern Beirut. Hundreds of security officers will be deployed in the area, which has become a major security issue following the Ruwais bombing last month that killed 30 and injured dozens more.
Lebanese interior minister Marwan Charbel said on Friday that he “signed an order to call up 2,000 internal security reservists to bolster the forces’ ability to enforce security and order.”
“The security branches, including the army, internal security forces and public security, will start deploying in the Dahieh area on Monday to enforce security and allay people’s fears,” he said, adding that the concept of self-security “has been rejected.”
The decision follows public complaints about security provisions put in place by Hezbollah’s members in the Dahieh district, particularly at the entry checkpoints, which have at times led to confrontations.
Charbel told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the deployment of Lebanese security forces should end any civilian presence on the checkpoints.”
“As soon as the security forces start their operations, all members of other parties will move out,” he said, referring to members of Hezbollah.
He added that “there will be no presence of ‘self-security’ after tomorrow,” also adding that “Hezbollah was carrying out that task when the state was incapable of it, but today, following the decision, security forces will do their duty.”
Charbel described “self-security” as a “danger to Lebanon” that would lead to a sectarian strife if it continued in Dahieh or in any other area of Lebanon.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Charbel denied that there was any coordination with Hezbollah regarding the security operation in the southern suburb of Beirut, saying, “There is no need to discuss [security operations] with any parties.”
Meanwhile, a Hezbollah member of the Lebanese parliament, Kamil Al-Rifa’i, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “meetings were held between the interim government’s ministers of the interior and defense, Marwan Charbel and Fayez Ghosn, on one side, and Hezbollah’s liaison and coordination official, Wafiq Safa, on the other. This resulted in an agreement to hand over security responsibilities at checkpoints on entrances to the Dahieh district to the security forces, in order to organize entry to the area and to search cars.”
Rifa’i added that “the movement has asked the security forces on a number of occasions to help with security issues.”
He said that “there are 1,200 to 1,800 security officers ready for this task,” and that “they should help Hezbollah relax and relieve the security pressure, especially following the criticisms directed against it from various sources.”
He added that he hoped the security measures “would relieve the tension between the Lebanese people and reduce the tense political discourse, which would only lead to conflict and confrontation.” He stressed that Hezbollah was “fully prepared to cooperate and provide assistance if needed.”
Rifa’i said: “There will no longer be any presence for Hezbollah members on the ground after tomorrow. They will only monitor from distance, and the equipment used by Hezbollah to search the cars will be taken away and stored.”
He added that the cameras in the Dahieh area “do not harm the public and their presence is limited to buildings where security officers and Hezbollah officials are present, and they can provide assistance to the security forces if any security issue took place.”
“Self security,” which involves Hezbollah relying on its own forces for security rather than the state’s, became a contested issue last month. Hezbollah has received strong criticism from many quarters over “self security,” in particular from the March 14 group, which has accused Hezbollah of establishing a mini-state within a state.
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