Lebanon’s government has announced that it will send the national army to secure Hezbollah-dominated suburbs in the south of the country, including the terrorist movement’s stronghold in the Dahiyeh neighborhood of Beirut.
The decision to send soldiers into Lebanese cities comes in the wake of multiple recent bombing attacks. The attacks have left more than 70 people dead and over 1,000 wounded.
The attackers appear to have targeted Hezbollah-dominated areas, possibly in revenge for Hezbollah’s heavy involvement in fighting in Syria.
Lebanese soldiers will take over checkpoints that Hezbollah set up following the attacks. The checkpoints have been a source of tension in the area as some residents say they have been aggressively questioned and even physically assaulted by the Hezbollah guards.
Hezbollah has also increased tensions with recent attempts to expand its telecommunications network into Christian areas. The network is widely believed to be used for wiretapping.
Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said in a press conference that he believes Hezbollah will welcome the intervention. “Hezbollah cannot wait to have the state deploy in these places, and their members will certainly retreat and allow us to take over,” he declared.
Hezbollah has previously accused the government of doing too little to protect residents of the country’s south.
While there has been no open opposition to the plan, the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar has reported criticism from retired security personnel. The media outlet quoted retired brigadier-general Rojeh Salem as warning that the army does not have sufficient troops to protect both major cities and the nation’s borders, and insisting, “The army must be deployed on borders only."
Lebanese politicians and commentators opposed to Iranian and Syrian influences in their country regularly criticize what they see as the undermining of Lebanese sovereignty through Hezbollah's effective control of entire regions, with some increasingly referring to the Iranian-backed terrorist group's presence as akin to a foreign occupation.