South Lebanon’s Shebaa is not like Arsal

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In south Lebanon, the Sunni town Shebaa has been providing humanitarian aid to displaced and wounded Syrians while claiming to keep out of Syria’s conflict.

The village of Shebaa and its rugged entrances, which connect it to Syria through Mount Hermon, have become the focus of attention by various local and political parties, worried that the Syrian war, raging on the eastern side of the mountain, might spill over to its western side.

The soft underbelly, that is, the Lebanese-Syrian-Palestinian triangle, has become fertile material for speculation, prompting local leaders to rush and address the border issue to prevent any negative consequences.

There are many stories about the situation in Shebaa and its surroundings. Some say that the area is embracing the Syrian opposition forces, especially after it started hosting the residents of several Sunni Syrian villages, such as Beit Jann and its environs, from where many have been displaced in the past few months after the opposition tried to control the army positions in Mount Hermon, near Druze villages, especially Arna, Harfa and Hadar.

Exacerbating the military situation was the failed attack launched by a large group composed of Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and the Mount Hermon Brigade, which belongs to the Ahfad al-Rasul Brigades, in an attempt to occupy the Syrian army Brigade 90 site and the strategic Harbun Hill.

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As a response, the Syrian army escalated actions against its opponents, using heavy artillery and warplanes, which bombarded targets in Mount Hermon. There’s information that the Syrian army is preparing a military operation called Cleansing Mount Hermon after it completes the battle of Qalamoun and of the west Damascus countryside.

Of course, everyone in Hasbaya and Urqub is worried about how the Mount Hermon battle will affect the region. But everyone is also determined to prevent the spread of the fighting because “no one is interested in that except the Zionist enemy, who has been watching from its observatory on Mount Hermon every small detail on the Syrian and Lebanese sides, and the rugged mountain roads that connect them,” as one of the region’s mayors said.

Because of that, there was recently a meeting in Marj al-Zouhour, held under the auspices of MP Walid Jumblatt. The meeting was attended by Minister Wael Abu Faour, MP Bahia Hariri, al-Jamaa al-Islamiyya, and political, religious, and popular groups. They called on the necessity that Syria’s problems stay in Syria and on the need to support the displaced and wounded coming to the area, regardless of which party they belong to. Interestingly, that meeting was boycotted by Druze March 8 forces.

Those trying to keep things calm say that all the area’s inhabitants are for keeping the area safe, especially since Shebaa was never hostile to its Druze surroundings throughout the war or during the Israeli occupation.

Lebanese security sources asserts that no Syrian opposition gunmen are in Shebaa or Urqub and that no weapons smuggling is taking place in that area. “The mountain roads and the geography here are not similar to Arsal’s. Also, the Lebanese army is watching every small detail, is recording the names of the displaced, and is surrounding the town with checkpoints,” the source said, adding, “In Shebaa, there are supporters for Hezbollah, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, and the Baath Party. If there had been [Syrian opposition] gunmen, they would have been easily found.”

Almost all prominent area figures say that no one wants to compromise Shebaa’s security and that no one accepts that arms and gunmen smuggling take place in that area. They also say that Shebaa is only hosting displaced persons and that the town is against terrorism and extremist groups.”

Shebaa makes no secret of the fact that it’s the first stop for people displaced and wounded in the battles on the other side of Mount Hermon, and that some supply convoys go to Syrian villages from Shebaa. Its geographical location has imposed that situation for decades. It is also known that the displaced go from Shebaa to the rest of the villages in Hasbayya and Urqub. The Red Cross also transports the wounded from Shebaa to the hospitals

There is no doubt that the recent battle that took place in the village of Arna, where nine Arna villagers were killed fighting opposition fighters, who came from Beit Jann, Mazraat Beit Jann and Dirbil, has stirred the emotions of the Lebanese Druze villages.

A sheikh in Khulwat al-Bayyada asserted that a number of people who have been injured in the battles of Arna and Hadar are in Shebaa. He wondered, “Will Shebaa’s inhabitants accept that the [wounded] rejoin the fighting after treatment and recuperation?” It's difficult to find an answer to that question in Shebaa, in light of the two-way traffic between Shebaa and the Syrian villages on the other side of Mount Hermon.

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Found in: syrian refugees in lebanon, syrian refugees, syrian conflict, syria, lebanon security, lebanon, druze
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