The Hezbollah terrorist group in southern Lebanon is working to expand its telecommunications network – a network believed to be frequently used for wiretapping, the Lebanese Daily Star reports.
Hezbollah members were spotted Sunday night in the majority-Christian town of Zahle in eastern Lebanon as they began to install a telecommunication grid near a local church.
Angry locals quickly countered with street protests. The Lebanese army came in to restore calm, and forced Hezbollah to stop its installation work.
“We stayed on the ground until the gunmen, not technicians, withdrew,” MP Elie Marouni told the Daily Star, adding, “I say this because the cars were without license plates and full of gunmen.”
Local leaders said the army’s arrival Sunday night had prevented a serious fight between Zahle residents and the Hezbollah gunmen.
Zahle residents said that tensions remained high Monday. Local politicians said they are determined to fight any attempt to establish a Hezbollah network in their town.
“We believe in the state and its absolute sovereignty on its territory… The Hezbollah network will not pass in Zahle,” they declared, speaking to Future TV.
The Lebanese daily Yalibnan reported a second incident Monday involving Hezbollah encroachment in southern Lebanon. According to the report, Hezbollah members assaulted a female journalist in a predominantly Christian area, and told her, “We are the state.”
Hezbollah members reportedly beat and cursed Maha al-Rifai, a journalist working with Al-Anwar, at a checkpoint between the majority-Christian Galerie Samaan area and the Hezbollah stronghold of Dhahieh. The attack ended when a Lebanese Internal Security officer arrived.
Rifai said that as she was leaving, the Hezbollah men told her, “Don’t you think you can ever come back to the Dhahieh area.” She wanted to file a complaint, but was told that she would have to file it in a Hezbollah-dominated neighborhood, “which is off-limits to me.”
Hezbollah has been under pressure over its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad in his battle against rebel armies. The group was apparently the target of a car bombing in Beirut and a rocket attack on southern Lebanon.
However, the group remains defiant, and has vowed to retaliate against any strikes on Syria by firing rockets at Israel.
According to reports Monday, Hezbollah may have received some of Assad’s chemical weapons.