Yazbek Says Only State Can Acquit Israeli Collaborators as Bkirki Refuses to Respond to Criticism

Head of Hizbullah's Juristic Committee Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek on Sunday stressed that only the Lebanese state can condemn or acquit the Lebanese who fled to Israel in 2000, responding to recent remarks by Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi.

“The Israeli enemy used these Lebanese to kill other Lebanese … and when the liberation happened, we said back then that this issue is in the hands of the state,” Yazbek said during a memorial service in Baalbek.

“We reiterate that this issue is in the hands of the state, which alone must say who is Lebanese and who is not Lebanese. This is for the state to rule on and it's not about certain viewpoints from here or there,” Yazbek added.

He stressed that “the victory in 2000 was behind changing the equations” in the conflict with Israel.

“They tried (to change the equations) after the year 2006 to no avail,” the Hizbullah official added, referring to the 2006 war with Israel.

Meanwhile, Bkirki sources told MTV that Patriarch al-Rahi "has nothing to say" about his controversial trip to Israel and the Holy Land, underlining that "his visit achieved a historic success."

"We refuse to comment on the remarks issued against al-Rahi's statement and we don't want to engage in a debate with anyone," the sources said.

"The file of the Lebanese in Israel is humanitarian, not political," the sources pointed out.

For his part, Maronite Bishop Boulos Sayyah told MTV that Bkirki "will not respond to anyone's remarks regarding al-Rahi's statement."

"We do not want Israeli agents among us in Lebanon, what we suffered during the occupation was enough, and just like they are not proud of their Lebanese identity, we are too not proud to call them Lebanese,” MP Ali Meqdad, member of Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance bloc, announced.

On Friday, al-Rahi said the Lebanese state must not deal with those who fled to Israel in 2000 as “criminals,” noting that they are not the ones who have “impeded the presidential election.”

During a visit to the Israeli village of Isfiya near the city of Haifa, al-Rahi called for a “reconciliation” in the issue of those who collaborated with Israel during its 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon.

“We are not collaborators. I did not see any Lebanese collaborating against Lebanon,” he added.

According to LBCI TV, al-Rahi rejected in his speech that their possible return to Lebanon be tied to “an amnesty or international resolutions.”

“Had they fought against Lebanon? Had they fought against the Lebanese state? Had they fought against Lebanese institutions?” al-Rahi asked rhetorically.

Israel has invaded Lebanon several times, occupying part of the country's territory for 18 years until it withdrew in 2000 following armed resistance. In 2006, a 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah left 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis dead.

Lebanon bars its citizens from visiting Israel or having business dealings with Israelis. However, Maronite clergy are exempt from the ban to enable them to stay in touch with the faithful in the Holy Land.

Trained, financed and armed by Israel, the South Lebanon Army (SLA) militia battled Palestinians and Hizbullah fighters during the occupation of southern Lebanon.

Al-Rahi arrived in Israel earlier in the week to join a brief visit by Pope Francis.

The Maronite Patriarch was condemned by media close to Hizbullah, which said traveling to arch-enemy Israel would be a "sin." His critics have also said the pilgrimage implies normalization with Israel at a time when the two countries remain formally at war.


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