Report: PFLP Aiding Syrian Crackdown
Beirut has released a detailed report implicating the Syrian Embassy, Hizbullah-linked members of its own Internal Security Forces, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in the kidnappings of Syrian opposition figures in Lebanon.
According to Lebanon's Daily Star, the report released publicly by Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi on Tuesday, was previously referred by the Internal Security Forces to judicial authorities in February.
The decision to release the report to the public came after Syria's ambassador to Beirut, Abdel-Karim Ali, demanded on Friday that Rifi provide evidence for the allegations that the embassy was involved in the kidnap of the Jasem brothers and of Shibli Aisamy, an 86-year-old Syrian dissident.
The ambassador Tuesday responded to fierce criticism by March 14 opposition figures criticizing negative comments he made about Rifi, as well as Syria's decision to conduct abductions of refugees on Lebanese soil without Beirut's consent.
“I don’t want to go into details about reactions and counter-reactions in this dear country … I am surprised that this is considered meddling in Lebanese affairs,” Ali said after meeting former Prime Minister Salim Hoss.
But the report is said to contain hard evidence of Syria's complicity in the abductions.
Its pages contained statements from witnesses who have reportedly provided solid evidence that three brothers from the Jasem family were kidnapped outside Baabda Serail on Feb. 24 by a four-man group led by Lt. Salah Ali al-Hajj, the head of the Syrian Embassy's ISF guard unit.
According to the report a fourth brother, Ahmad Jasem, has been reported missing.
Additionally, the report said two ISF vehicles at the disposal of the Syrian Embassy in Beirut were used in the kidnapping of the Jasem brothers. It detailed the interception of 19 phone calls made by Hajj to the Syrian Embassy to facilitate their travel to Yanta, in east Lebanon.
There, the report says, the four kidnapped Syrian dissidents were handed over to terrorists from Ahmed Jibril’s PFLP on the Lebanon-Syria border. The PFLP, an anti-Israel terrorist group, has long established ties with Damascus which reportedly provides it with logistical support, intelligence, and arms.
Hajj is the son of Maj. Gen. Ali Hajj, Lebanon’s former ISF chief, who was held with three other Lebanese generals for four years for their alleged involvement in the Hizbullah-orchestrated 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
According to the report, Hajj denied any involvement in the kidnapping – despite the intercepts contradicting his statement – saying that on the night of 24 February 2011 he was on a mission with Syrian Ambassador Ali Abdel Karim Ali in Baabda, north of Beirut.
Although Rifi said the investigation into Aisamy’s abduction was still underway, evidence collected so far shows remarkable similitude between his kidnapping and that of the Jasem brothers.
Syria has raised the ire of many in Lebanon for lightning raids into Lebanese territory to pursue dissidents and fire upon refugees before withdrawing.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has said his government is committed to protecting all Syrian refugees in his country. His office has made no official response to the report.