Shalom: 'Grave Concern' Over Hizbullah Takeover of Lebanon
Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom expressed grave concern Saturday over the real possibility of an Iranian-controlled Hizbullah regime taking control in Lebanon in the coming weeks. Shalom expressed the warning after an announcement by Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt that he would throw his party's support behind Hizbullah, as factions in Lebanon scrambled to build a new coalition.
Hizbullah “will no longer be merely a terrorist group operating with Iran's backing, but a terrorist group in control of the country,” Shalom said at an event in Bat Yam. “This is a dangerous development that requires Israel's close attention. We will be prepared for all future developments.”
Jumblatt's announcement Friday that his eleven member Progressive Socialist Party would support a Hizbullah candidate for Prime Minister of Lebanon puts that goal within the terror group's reach, after Hizbullah's recent resignation from the Lebanese government caused the fall of now-caretaker Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri's government.
Hizbullah and its supporters currently number 57 of the 128 members of the Lebanese parliament, only 8 short of the 65 needed to elect a new prime minister. If all 11 members of Jumblatt's party follow their leader's track, a Hizbullah-backed candidate would indeed be selected as the country's new prime minister. According to Lebanese media reports, that would most likely be Omar Karami, who was prime minister twice in the past, and was popularly known in Lebanon as “Syria's puppet.”
Reacting to Jumblatt's announcement, Lebanese residents flocked to stores and markets to stock up on supplies. Posters and anonymous phone calls to residents of Beirut warned them to leave the city because of expected upcoming unrest. One university student told a Lebanese newspaper that he had received a text message warning him to leave the city, and that many of his friends had received one as well.
Rumors have been sweeping the country in recent days of an impending civil war and an attenpt by Hizbullah to take over Beirut, and on Friday, the Lebanese army vigorously denied that it had sent troops to surround a building in the city where a group of terrorists were holed up, planning a major attack. With that, the army announced Saturday that it was increasing its patrols throughout the country, in order to ensure calm and allay fears of future developments.
Lebanese rightist leader Samir Jaja warned against the possibility of a Hizbullah takeover of the country on Saturday. “Hizbullah is a party sponsored by Iran. Has anyone thought of what will happen to us if they take over? We will turn into Gaza,” Jaja said.