Drawing a New Map of North Lebanon, Syrian Fighters Included

A sniper of the Free Syrian Army, watches government positions during ongoing clashes with regime forces in the frontline neighborhood of Al Mtarall Adem on 28 February 2013 (Photo: AFP – Zac Baillie)
 
Published Wednesday, March 13, 2013
 
Networks of Syrian fighters in North Lebanon are reshaping the lay of the land. From Syrian logistics cells to clandestine arms routes, new political realities are changing how Lebanese navigate their country.

In Lebanon, saying you were stopped by an armed Palestinian would imply that you entered a camp under the control of a Palestinian faction. But to say that you were stopped by an armed Syrian fighter – in Tripoli, this month, years after the withdrawal of the Syrian army – is a whole other matter.

It gets even more problematic when this armed fighter asked you to change your destination, which was entirely in Lebanon, after noticing your camera.

These new arrangements suggest that the area is headed toward a new phase that security officials like to compare to the days when Palestinian resistance operations in Lebanon earned the country the moniker, Fatah Land.

A high-ranking security officer bases this assessment on the mere fact that North Lebanon hosts around 100,000 Syrian refugees, maintaining that a third of them are prepared to carry arms. Not only that, the same official indicates that data collected by security forces confirms the presence of hundreds of Syrian fighters moving freely inside Lebanese territories.

In parallel, security information indicates that the brother of a prominent Akkar MP continues to organize Syrian cells. They are distributed according to a military plan drawn by retired army officers who support the Syrian opposition.

Security information reveals that the dissident Syrian officer Annad A. arrived in Halba accompanied by an activist from Akkar, after having fled from Syria to an area loyal to Lebanese MP Walid Jumblatt, where he was protected.

The information also indicates that he held a meeting in the home of Mahmoud Z. They discussed supplying Syrian fighters with arms and supplies to be distributed in Halba Square.

There are also rumors of a type of Syrian military council in the North, with different tasks being undertaken by the various activists, including fundraising, coordination, and arms supplies. They form something akin to a military shadow government. There are also strong indicators that they are linked to Lebanese political and security figures.

In addition to external funding, Syrian national Anwar S. B., AKA Abu-Hassan al-Souri, takes care of supplies and arms in coordination with retired army officers and a Future Movement MP from North Lebanon. It should be noted that Souri was wounded in the explosion of the arms depot in Abi Samra in Tripoli.

In addition, the name Mohammed A. F., AKA Abu-Afif, is mentioned. His task is to provide monthly stipends to be transported to al-Qasir via Ersal. The money is collected through donations in Europe and the Arab Gulf countries, where it is deposited in the aforementioned MP’s home.

In terms of arms purchases, the name Ismail R. is prominent. He is a wealthy man described by Syrian opposition members as being in charge of supplying arms bought from pro-regime Syrian army officers. He is also in charge of receiving wounded Free Syrian Army soldiers and distributing them around hospitals in Lebanon.

They all coordinate their work with a Syrian opposition desk located on the Order of Doctors street in Tripoli, across from the central water reservoir, behind the home of General Ashraf Rifi, director of Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces.

Information indicates that nightly meetings are being held regularly between dissident Syrian officers, religious figures, and others. Recently, the Abrar compound witnessed a shootout due to a disagreement between one of the wounded and his doctors.

Some refugees mingle as civilians in the daytime, then use the cover of night to perform their “jihadi” duties. In Akkar, there are some border points that are impossible to cross or approach without being stopped by armed men, including Syrians, who ask you about what you are doing, where did you come from, and what you want.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

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