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Helping Hezbollah on Blowback, Lebanese Army Takes Over Checkpoints

The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) has begun taking over Hezbollah checkpoints in the Bekaa Valley in northeastern Lebanon, close to the border with Syria. This move offers considerable advantages to Hezbollah, which gets the benefits of containment of blowback from Syria in the former of Sunni rebel fighters crossing over into Lebanon and wreaking havoc on Hezbollah’s homefront, while at the same time protecting the Shi’ite group’s public image as a resistance group rather than a surrogate for the Lebanese government. It also helps dampen the obvious incongruity of Hezbollah needing to man checkpoints to contain a blowback that they are simultaneously denying is an actual risk back home:

The impact of the Syrian crisis has also been felt in the Bekaa, with the army arresting a number of Sunni gunmen attempting to enter Lebanon illegally and seizing booby-trapped vehicles that were to be used in terrorist attacks in Lebanon.

The operation was launched on April 5, just four days after the LAF began a similar maneuver in Tripoli in northern Lebanon with hundreds have been killed in street fighting in recent months.

Hezbollah runs a non-official army of its own in Lebanon, controlling large swathes of the south of the country and the strategically-crucial Bekaa. But it also is seen as holding broad sway over the armed forces, both through a network of Shiite loyalists that have been estimated to make up a third of the LAF, and through its commanding influence over the decisions of the Lebanese government.

The army began working in the valley, dismantling checkpoints in Baalbek, Hermel and Arsal regions. The army is planning on establishing additional checkpoints along the border with Syria to prevent terrorist infiltrations.

“There will no longer be any unofficial check-points or armed forces along the roads in the region of Baalbek – Hermel,” said Interior and Municipalities Minister Nuhad al-Mashnouk.

The Bekaa operation will also focus on the northern section of the Bekaa Valley, according to al-Mashnouk. He will also present a plan to the Lebanese cabinet on April 8 for the army to open a road to the Lebanese village Tfeil, which currently can only be accessed from Syria.

[Photo: VOA / Wiki Commons]