Right-wing Military leader Bashir Gemayel made a thinly veiled appeal to his militias to continue fighting Syrian troops of the Arab League Peace Force in Lebanon, on Wednesday (22 November).
Right-wing Military leader Bashir Gemayel made a thinly veiled appeal to his militias to continue fighting Syrian troops of the Arab League Peace Force in Lebanon, on Wednesday (22 November). The call, in a message published to mark the 35th anniversary of Lebanon's independence from France, followed a bomb blast in which more than forty Syrian troops were reported killed or wounded.
SYNOPSIS: Right-wing sources said twenty Syrian troops died near the mountain town of Aley southeast of Beirut on Tuesday (21 November) when a bomb exploded in a bus.
It was one of the worst single acts of violence against the Arab League Peace Force since it was established two years ago. There were about sixty Syrian soldiers in the bus when the explosion occurred. Rightwing reports said the blast was so powerful it hurled debris into a nearby village. Syrian troops surrounded the area and staged a massive search for those responsible. It was apparently timed to coincide with the 35th anniversary of Lebanon's independence from French rule and occurred about an hour before President Elias Sarkis addressed the nation to mark the occasion.
In his speech President Sarkis said Lebanon was disintegrating and called on the Lebanese to unite and build a modern state. His speech followed the news of the explosion - one of the near-daily incidents involving Syrian troops and militiamen of the Lebanese rightwing parties which are challenging the Syrian role in Lebanon. Large-scale fighting between Syrians and rightists ended last October 8 with a ceasefire. But scores of people have been killed or wounded since then.
President Sarkis presided later in the day over a graduation ceremony of new Lebanese army disintegrated during the 1975-76 civil war and efforts to rebuild it have made slow progress. It is outgunned and outnumbered by the right-wing militias.
President Sarkis said the most important aspect of the Lebanese army's role is the restoration of complete and clear national sovereignty over every inch of Lebanese territory. Earlier in the year his government announced that it would impose compulsory military service.
But as President Sarkis appealed for unity the leader of the rightwing militias, which regard the Syrian-dominated peace force as an army of occupation, was quoted in the French-language L'Orient Le Jour newspaper. Without mentioning Syria by name, Bashir Gemayel said that parts of Lebanon were under occupation. But, he said, the pillars of power did not know what to do about it, and urged the people to take action.