BEIRUT: The head of General Security flew to Qatar Friday night, ahead of a visit by Prime Minister Tammam Salam to the Gulf emirate Sunday as part of efforts to negotiate the release of Lebanese security personnel held by extremist militants on the outskirts of Arsal.
Speaking to The Daily Star, a source from General Security said that Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim would hold preparatory talks with Qatari officials.
Salam will be at the head of a ministerial delegation to Doha Sunday for talks with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser al-Thani.
Qatar is mediating negotiations for the release of at least 22 Army soldiers and Internal Security Forces that militants from ISIS and the Nusra Front are still holding following their five-day battles with the Lebanese Army in the northeastern town of Arsal last month.
Lt. Gen. Walid Salman, the Army chief of staff, inspected military units stationed in Arsal Friday.
An Army statement said that Salman toured military centers in the town, where he was briefed on measures that have been taken to protect the area from terrorists and on the readiness of troops to face any urgent development.
Salman also met soldiers and officers, praising their efforts and sacrifices and relaying to them the instructions of Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi.
The Army has regained all posts it lost during the Arsal battle and cut all supply routes the militants, stationed in Arsal’s outskirts, were using.
Meanwhile, militants from the Nusra Front and ISIS attacked several stone quarries near Arsal’s hills, destroying equipment and stealing bulldozers, according to the National News Agency.
The NNA reported that militants from both groups had raided the three quarries – belonging to Mohammad Alouli, Melhem Hujeiri and Hani Hujeiri – destroying machines and driving back to the hills with several stolen bulldozers.
The abduction of the Lebanese security personnel has increased tensions in Lebanon, particularly after ISIS executed two soldiers.
Tit-for-tat kidnappings and retaliatory attacks against Syrian refugees in Lebanon, especially in the Bekaa Valley, took place over the weekend after ISIS announced the beheading of soldier Abbas Medlej, from the Baalbek village of Maqneh.
This came around one week after the same group had executed soldier Ali al-Sayyed.
In a bid to challenge rising sectarian tensions, the families of Sayyed, a Sunni, and Medlej, a Shiite, joined together in Friday prayers.
Members of Sayyed’s family traveled from north Lebanon to Ansar, near Baalbek, to offer condolences to the relatives of Medlej.
The two families gathered for joint prayers at the village’s mosque led by Baalbek and Hermel Mufti Sheikh Bakr al-Rifai, who stressed the importance of “Muslim unity and coexistence.”
The family of kidnapped ISF member Ali Ramez Bazal blocked the international road at the entrance of his Bazalieh village in the northern Bekaa in protest against his continued detention.
Taking part in the protest was Bazalieh’s Mayor Mohammad Bazal, along with several prominent figures from the village. The mayor called on the government to intensify efforts to win the freedom of the captives.
Despite the protest, the mayor said that residents of the village were generally against blocking roads.
Bazal urged people of Arsal to work for the release of the captives. “We are all part of the same family and we have social, religious and moral ties,” he said.
Separately, the Lebanese Army said in a statement that it defused a bomb weighing around 200 grams that was discovered near Martyrs Square in Sidon.
Source : DailyStar