Lebanese army raids Syrian refugee camps, casualties reported

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Syrian refugees gathering in a camp, north of Lebanon. File photo

Four Syrian men arrested after deadly Lebanese army raids on refugee camps last week have died, the military command said on Tuesday, blaming pre-existing conditions.

Lebanese soldiers stormed two refugee camps on Friday near the border town of Arsal, but were met with a string of suicide attacks and grenades.

They carried out a wave of arrests in the wake of the explosions, which killed one girl and wounded seven soldiers.

“During the usual medical examinations conducted by the army’s medical unit, a number of them were found to be suffering from chronic health problems that were activated as a result of weather conditions,” the army said on Tuesday.

According to the army, the men were immediately transferred to hospitals, but their health conditions worsened and they died.

They were identified as Mustafa Abdelkarim Abseh, Khaled Hussein Al-Malis, Anas Hussein al-Hasiki, and Othman Morei al-Malis.

Lebanon is home to more than one million refugees fleeing the conflict in neighboring Syria, many of whom live in informal tented settlements.

The army’s treatment of detainees after the Arsal incident has sparked fierce controversy in Lebanon, particularly after images emerged of security forces apparently detaining dozens of refugees.

The men are shirtless and pictured lying on the ground in rows, their hands tied behind their backs.

In response, a group calling itself “The Electronic Army of the Syrian Revolution” hacked Lebanese state television’s website on Tuesday, posting messages opposing the army.

“The crime of Arsal is unforgivable,” one message said.

Lebanese interior minister: Our army is not targeting Syrian refugees

Lebanese Interior Minister Nuhad al-Mashnouk said in an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya’s sister channel Al Hadath that he was “keen on the dignity and security of Syrian refugees,” stressing that the Lebanese army is not targeting Syrian refugees.

He said that what happened in Arsal was a military operation that came in the wake of five suicide bombers attacking the city, adding “the Lebanese army has surrounded the area for at least two years”.

He condemned the actions of some Syrian refugees during the Lebanese army’s military operation.

He denied any involvement of Hezbollah in the operations of the Lebanese army in Arsal, and said, “Hezbollah is not in Arsal, the army is the decision maker there”.

The Lebanese interior minister stressed that “there should be no judgment about the military operation in Arsal”, noting “our mission is to prevent the exit of any terrorist from Arsal or other areas”.

He explained that the operation in Arsal is not a “campaign against the displaced and refugees,” but against the terrorists, adding “Arsal’s suburbs include Syrian civilians, as well as three terrorist organizations”.

Manshnouk stressed that “Lebanon will not return any Syrian to his country except in accordance with international guarantees,” adding that “It is the United Nations that determines the safe areas where the displaced can return.”

Mahnouk revealed “all security precautions are taken to prevent any terrorist plot from occurring.”

“The fear of sleeper cells is present all over the world,” he said.

He said that there are 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and that 30% of the residents of Lebanon are Syrians.

Agencies

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