Derbas Rules Out Foreign Meddling in Arsal Clashes

Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas denied on Monday that regional countries were involved in talks to restore calm in the northeastern border town of Arsal.

“No foreign country intervened to restore calm in the area, but concerned lawmakers and residents are carrying out their tasks in this regard,” Derbas told al-Liwaa newspaper.

He expressed firm support to the Lebanese army in its battle against gunmen.

“It is either ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) or chaos... And chaos is a better option,” Derbas pointed out.

He noted that the cabinet will “without any doubt confirm the importance of providing the necessary political cover to the Lebanese army.”

The violence is the worst to hit Arsal since the beginning of the war in neighboring Syria in 2011.

The attack began Saturday as Syrian rebels made a cross-border raid into Arsal, some 90 kilometers (55 miles) from the capital, Beirut. The clashes continued into Sunday around the municipal building and an army checkpoint.

The raid came hours after the army said troops detained Syrian Imad Ahmed Jomaa, who identified himself as a member of the Nusra Front.

The Nusra Front is one of the most powerful groups fighting to overthrow the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Arsal, which currently hosts tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, has frequently been the scene of conflict with Lebanese security forces.

The Sunni-majority area is sympathetic to the uprising against Bashar Assad, whose regime has regularly launched air raids in the area that it says target opposition fighters holed up in the mountainous region around Arsal.



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