BEIRUT: Following the security operation by the Lebanese army in Brital that killed eight people, insults by the town’s youth targeting Hezbollah have been circulating on social media and across media outlets.
One of Lebanon’s most wanted criminals — Ali Zaid Ali Zaid Ismail — was among those killed in the operation.
His mother and brother were also killed along with a Syrian worker and others in the operation carried out by the army’s strike force unit and commando regiment during the ground and air raid.
The insults against Hezbollah in Brital have crossed every red line, including those drawn by the militant group.
The youths who faced TV cameras last Tuesday asked not to have any of their words censored.
One of them said: “We respect the Lebanese army’s authority and we know that we are under its care, but our state has met with parties that control the state and signed the decision to shed our blood.
“To Hezbollah, we are nothing but scum. The party wants to massacre us. They do not recognize our existence and believe our lives don’t matter, but we promise to prove them wrong.”
Another one described Hezbollah as “worshippers of money and power.”
He said: “May God curse Hezbollah and (its leader) Sayyed Hassan. They are hiding you, Sayyed Hassan, under the ground. Come out and take a look at what’s happening. You are hiding from our pain.
“You fight us with our bread and for our religion. Sayyed, you are not a man of God. You take us to Syria to kill us, and if we don’t die there, you come to our houses and kill us.”
These were some of the many statements that held Hezbollah accountable for the killing of eight people, including Ismail, who has evaded more than 3,000 arrest warrants.
Hezbollah remained silent and did not respond to the insults, and the party’s officials did not comment despite the fact that the angry protests in Brital included the burning of Hezbollah’s flags.
The only official to comment on what happened was Amal MP and caretaker Agriculture Minister Ghazi Zeaiter.
The Amal Movement is headed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who also received his share of insults and had his photos burned during the riots.
Zeaiter said: “The army is the protector of Lebanon, and the reactions in Brital are irrelevant individual ones.”
Ali Al-Amin, who is part of Hezbollah’s opposition, told Arab News: “The killing of eight people in Brital at once is not a normal incident in the town — nor in any other Lebanese town. However, what has happened in Brital is a special case.
“During the past period, Hezbollah has been creating a cover for the drug cultivation and dealing taking place in Brital. There was a sort of protection and barter.
“Hezbollah is fighting in Syria and wants its territory at home to be coherent and loyal,” he added. The party has been turning a blind eye to what was happening in Brital, which is on the Lebanese-Syrian border, for long years — perhaps before the war started in Syria.”
On whether he believed that the Lebanese army’s security operation revealed the fragility of people’s loyalty to Hezbollah, Al-Amin said: “During the municipal elections that took place years ago, Hezbollah paid a large sum of money to have the party’s candidates in Brital win.
“Brital is the hometown of Hezbollah’s former secretary-general, Sheikh Sobhi Al-Tufayli, who was against Hezbollah’s policy.
“This makes Brital a special case compared with the other villages of the Bekaa.”
He said that the killing of eight people in the town in one day “was an insult to its people, and if the same thing happened in other towns, maybe we would’ve seen similar reactions.”
Al-Amin said that he was surprised by how aware Hezbollah critics were, especially those who warned the party through TV cameras that its end would be in the Bekaa.
He quoted dignitaries in the Bekaa, saying: “If the atmosphere in the Baalbek-Hermel remains as it is, the resentment may expand to other towns.
“The words of those who are angry about the death of their relatives in Syria because of Hezbollah convey hard feelings in the Bekaa. Hezbollah has violated many rules and did not respect the area’s relationship with its neighbors.
“These hard feelings are still hidden and may surface at any moment.”
A surgeon from Brital, who refused to give his name for professional reasons, said that what had happened in his town, which has a population of about 40,000 people, was the result of “suppressed anger.”
He told Arab News that the dignitaries of Brital and neighboring towns had begun to form a council that includes families to manage the area’s affairs.
He added: “It is true that those whom the Lebanese army has pursued were criminals, but the method in which the operation was carried out has caused families to unite. The criminal should be arrested and tried, but killing people means that the matter was no longer a security plan but a form of political discipline.”
He said that people had become very cautious and that “Brital is not full of criminals and drug dealers.”
“There are dozens of doctors, lawyers, and engineers in Brital, yet the town is often associated with drugs, even though there are many unemployed people and no one is helping them,” he said.
Arab News spoke to Al-Tufayli through a mediator. He believes that “there was a political party behind the security operation in Brital — the army merely implemented the decision but did not make it.”
He urged people to direct their anger toward this party and not the army.