By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – One of Lebanon’s most influential Christian leaders has urged the army to retake the country’s South and prevent Hezbollah – the dominant Islamist militant group in the area from launching more rockets at Israel.
The comments by Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, the Maronite Patriarch, came after Hezbollah fired 19 rockets at open areas in Israel last Friday.
Two days earlier, the group launched three rockets at Israel, prompting Israeli retaliation. The Israeli military said it carried out its first airstrikes on neighboring Lebanon in seven years due to the cross-border attacks.
Therefore, “We call upon the Lebanese army, which is responsible with the international forces for the security of the South, to take control of the entire lands of the South to implement (United Nations) Resolution 1701 strictly. And to prevent the launching of missiles from Lebanese territory, not for the sake of Israel’s safety, but rather for the safety of Lebanon,” said Al-Rahi during Sunday mass, monitored by Worthy News.
The patriarch accused Hezbollah of provoking “military actions that elicit destructive Israeli responses.”
He added that “It is true that Lebanon did not sign peace with Israel, but it is also true that Lebanon did not decide to go to war with it.” He noted that Lebanon “is officially committed to the 1949 armistice. It is currently in negotiations over the demarcation of borders. It is searching for security, a way out of its crises. And recovery from its almost total collapse.”
There were no injuries or casualties reported on either side in the recent rocket incidents. But international concerns remain that could change as tensions escalate.
Referring to Iran-backed Hezbollah, the Maronite patriarch stressed that he could not “accept, by virtue of equality before the law, that a party decides peace and war outside the decision of legality and the national decision entrusted to two-thirds of the members of the [Lebanese] government.”
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has reportedly denied that his group controlled Lebanese governments. And, he claimed that it has no majority that would allow it to act on its own.
Nasrallah also repeatedly denied accusations that Hezbollah maintained an arms warehouse at Lebanon’s Beirut port. He made clear the group could not be responsible for last year’s tragic port blast that killed more than 200 people, injured some 7,000 people, and displaced 300,000 residents. “We have nothing in the port. Not an arms depot, nor a missile depot nor missiles nor rifles nor bombs nor bullets nor ammonium nitrate,” Nasrallah stressed in televised remarks shortly after the blast.
But as tensions rise, angry protests over alleged corruption by the nation’s political elites now feature more public condemnation of Hezbollah. Demonstrators accuse the militia and political party lawmakers in parliament of “selling” their country to Iran. Critics say Tehran is using proxies such as Hezbollah to destabilize the region and threaten Israel’s existence.
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