|Syria rebels demand Hezbollah apology to free Lebanese|
|Written by Reuters|
|Saturday, 09 June 2012|
Syrian rebels said they were holding a group of kidnapped Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims, and accused some of the hostages of opposing their revolution against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, news channel Al Jazeera reported on Thursday.
The insurgents added they would not start negotiations for the release of the hostages until the leader of Lebanese guerilla group Hezbollah, an ally of Assad's, apologized for a recent speech.
The rebel Revolutionary Council in Aleppo did not give any more details on their plans for the captives, or spell out what had offended them in the speech by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
The group of about a dozen Lebanese men was on a bus that was stopped by gunmen in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo earlier this month.
"During questioning it emerged that a group of them had a hand in (oppressing the revolt) so it was decided to keep them for a while," rebel group spokesman Abo Abdullah al-Halabi told Al Jazeera. The men were all in good health, he added.
Syria's president Assad, who belongs to an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, has been trying to crush a 14-month revolt led by fighters from the country's Sunni Muslim majority.
There have been fears of the turmoil spilling over the border into neighboring Lebanon, also driven by sectarian tensions and divided between foes and friends of the revolt in Syria.
Upon hearing the news of their capture residents of the southern suburb of Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold where the hostages live, took to the streets in anger, burned tires and blocked roads.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah appealed for calm and in a speech said the kidnapping would not affect his group's allegiances in Syria.
Syrian rebels have accused Hezbollah of sending fighters to help Assad, a charge dismissed by Hezbollah.
(Reporting by Mariam Karouny; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
What does Nasrallah really mean?
The Shia taxi driver who brought me home from the airport a few nights ago answered my question about the fate of the 11 Lebanese Shia pilgrims kidnaped in Syria with a rather shocking statement: “We don’t care. We don’t want them back if this causes any humiliation to the Sayyed. He will not apologize to anyone.”
Of course, the Sayyed here is Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah. And the humiliation would be agreeing to the kidnapers’ request for Nasrallah to apologize to the Syrian people for supporting the Syrian regime.
I did not know what apology he was talking about, because, interestingly, the kidnapers’ request was released 24 hours later. How did a taxi driver know about this? Only God, or to be precise, the Party of God, knows. This raises another question: Is it true that they really don’t care if the hostages are released, or is it denial because Hezbollah and its community are more worried about the real humiliation, the one they have to pay as a penalty for supporting Syria’s dictator.
In every war, conflict or street clash, Nasrallah remains hidden in a safe and probably luxurious place, while the Lebanese lose their lives and property. So far, no one’s complaining has led anywhere. So here he goes again, threatening with war and giving options without consulting state institutions or the Lebanese people.
This is sending the wrong message to the Syrians about the Shia community, which is also paying the same, if not at times higher, price. It adds to the viciousness of the circle that puts all the Shia in one bag and which led to the kidnaping of the pilgrims. Because of this attitude, the group that kidnaped the pilgrims made a mistake by capturing unarmed Lebanese Shia to send a message to Hezbollah.
It is a vicious circle that only hurts the innocent people, Shia or not. But that’s why Nasrallah has probably started to give signs of rapprochement, without showing any sign of weakness. The same speech carried a number of suggestions that bear out Hezbollah’s preference for stability in Lebanon.
Although the Syrian regime is trying to move the crisis to Lebanon—with the continuous bloody clashes in Tripoli and those in Beirut last month, in addition to other incidents of individual killings and arrests— Hezbollah seems to have been trying to control it. When the pilgrims were kidnaped, many from the Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs of Beirut blocked roads with burning tires, but Nasrallah came out immediately and asked them to go home. Also, it seems that the party was not involved in the clashes that occurred in Tripoli and Beirut, which were limited to anti- and pro-Syrian groups.
Hezbollah needs stability in Lebanon today, and Nasrallah’s call for a national dialogue now could be seen as a sign of this outlook. Otherwise, clashes would have escalated to a very dangerous level. Stability in Lebanon today protects the government, which Hezbollah formed, which is going to carry out the parliamentary elections in 2013.
Without stability, this government might collapse and another government, probably less controlled by Hezbollah, could be formed before the elections. This would decrease Hezbollah’s chances of winning the next parliament, and without Bashar al-Assad next door, its control over Lebanon will be seriously reduced.
Therefore, for the first time in a very long time, there could be a real discrepancy between what Hezbollah and the Syrian regime want for Lebanon. This will not change Hezbollah’s stance on the Syrian uprising or stop it from supporting the regime. However, it says a lot about Hezbollah’s fear of the future.
Hanin Ghaddar is the managing editor of NOW Lebanon. She tweets @haningdr
Syrian rebel says “five Hezbollah” members among abducted pilgrims
May 27, 2012
Free Syrian Army (FSA) Brigadier General Hussam al-Din Awak, who is one of the mediators involved in the issue of the Lebanese pilgrims kidnapped in Syria, said Sunday that among the abductees were five Hezbollah members.
During an interview with LBC television station, Awak explained what had happened to the bus carrying the Lebanese pilgrims in Aleppo.
Awak said that the leader of the FSA brigade that captured the Lebanese citizens in Aleppo had telephoned him and said that members of his unit stopped a bus carrying Lebanese.
According to the brigade leader, the bus was among other vehicles passing through Aleppo.
Awak told LBC that FSA chief colonel Riad al-Asaad “abandoned the brigade which belonged to him,” adding that when the unit called to inform Asaad about the incident, he replied: “I have nothing to do with this issue.”
Awak added: “At that moment I intervened and we will release [the Lebanese pilgrims].”
He also said that the brigade leader “had demands” without elaborating any further, adding that “there was a Libyan intervention in this issue through a person named Abu Mosaab al-Ghatous.”
Awak also revealed that “the abducted [Lebanese] citizen Hussein Hamoud is a Hezbollah member,” but he did not provide any other names.
Furthermore, he said that an audio recording of the Lebanese pilgrims will be released.
On Tuesday, the National News Agency (NNA) reported that 13 Lebanese Shia Muslims were kidnapped in Aleppo province as they were returning home by bus from a pilgrimage in Iran. Their families said that they were abducted by Syrian rebels. The Free Syrian Army, however, denied the accusation.
The NNA reported Friday that the pilgrims had been released and that Prime Minister Najib Mikati received a call from his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan who assured him they were "safe and on their way to Beirut."
The kidnapping took place amid heightened tension in Lebanon over the Syrian crisis.
|Last Updated ( Saturday, 09 June 2012 )|
|< Prev||Next >|
|The Daily Star >> News >> Local News|
|The Daily Star >> News >> Politics|