Nasrallah calls on tribes to fight Islamic State group
Hizballah's secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, has called for tribes in Lebanon's northern Bekaa district to form "home guard" units, similar to Iraq's "popular mobilisation" forces.
It is hoped they will spearhead battles against armed Syrian groups allegedly operating around Arsal, in the restive border region.
Nasrallah said Hizballah would do everything it could to protect locals in Baalbek and neighbouring villages from the "takfiri" threat. "Takfiri" is an insulting term used to accuse Muslims of being "an infidel".
|Hizballah also has also reportedly discussed forming a Lebanese popular mobilisation force with tribal leaders.|
The group has also displayed posters in the area encouraging locals to fight "takfiris", and expel them from the lands around Arsal on Lebanon's eastern border with Syria.
Arsal is a town inhabited by more than 40,000 Lebanese residents and 100,000 Syrian refugees.
Hizballah also has also reportedly discussed forming a Lebanese popular mobilisation force with tribal leaders, local sources in Baalbek told al-Araby al-Jadeed.
The sources also said that leaders from the predominantly Shia Lebanese Amal Movement had pledged allegiance to Nasrallah. This suggests the party may be preparing to abandon its leader, Nabih Berri, the speaker of parliament.
MP Assem Araji, a member of the Sunni-led Future Movement parliamentary bloc, said Nasrallah's call to form popular mobilisation forces was "a big mistake".
The member of parliament from Bekaa has opposed calls for the Future Movement to side with tribes in Arsal, in the same way Hizballah had sided with tribes in Baalbek and Hermel. He said this would cause sectarian tension in the area, "which enjoyed peace even during the Lebanese civil war".
Instead, Araji urged political factions to ask the army and government to reinforce their presence in all regions. This would help defend Lebanon's eastern border from attack, he said.
Residents of Arsal have reportedly been reassured by an increase in the number of Lebanese army patrols in the town and its outskirts. The army's presence increased after August 2014, when it fought a series of battles against the Islamic State group and al-Nusra Front in the area.
An Arsal resident told al-Araby that many families slaughtered sheep to welcome the security forces when they arrived in the town.
Meanwhile, battles continue between Hizballah and Syrian groups in Qalamoun near the Syrian border, limiting agricultural and industrial activity in the area.
"Farmers have been unable to harvest cherries for the second year in a row," the source said.
This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.