The northern Lebanese area of Wadi Khaled regained its “cautious” calm Saturday night following unrest during the day over the death of four of its residents in a clash with Lebanese border guards Friday night.
A series of contacts and efforts were made throughout the past hours in order to return the situation to normalcy.
Around midnight Friday, two Wadi Khaled locals were killed and two others were seriously wounded in a clash with the Common Border Force, which comprises members from the Lebanese Army, the Internal Security Forces, the General Security Department and the Lebanese Customs.
The state-run National News Agency reported Saturday that the two wounded locals, Walid Ezzo and Asaad al-Oueissi, died of their injuries.
NNA identified Friday’s victims as Mohammed Ahmed and Fadlallah al-Shahab.
Also Saturday, angry locals torched offices used in the past by the General Security Department to express their anger over the death of the two young men on Friday.
They also hurled stones at the vehicles of the Common Border Force, whose members responded by opening fire on the protesters, wounding six people, one critically. The wounded were rushed to the Our Lady of Peace Hospital in Qobayat.
“These developments aggravated the tense situation, especially with the residents’ proclamation that the two young men were killed for no reason and that they did not use firearms” against border guards, NNA reported.
Premier Saad Hariri contacted Saturday the commands of the Army and the Internal Security Forces, as well as dignitaries from the northern area of Wadi Khaled, to follow up on the incident and its repercussions.
He also offered his condolences to the families of the victims and inquired about the condition of the wounded.
Hariri underlined during his contacts that “the citizens of Wadi Khaled are our people and brothers, and they are aware that the Lebanese Army is our army, and its soldiers are their children and our children.”
He also said that he will personally follow up on “the investigations into the incident and its unfortunate repercussions,” calling on everyone to “wait for the findings of the Lebanese judiciary, which is the relevant authority and reference to establish justice.”
Hariri called on the people of Wadi Khaled to cooperate with the Lebanese Army and the Internal Security Forces, “which play a great national role in this sensitive phase and to prevent anyone from exploiting the situation to cause a rift between Lebanese citizens and their military institution.”
In this regard, MPs Mouein al-Meraabi and Khaled Daher accompanied by Sheikh Malek Jadida headed to the Wadi Khaled area in a bid to east tensions and contain the repercussions of the incident.
Meraabi condemned the killing of the two young men and called for “dissolving the Common Border Force because it failed in its mission and it has always been provoking the residents.”
He stressed “the importance of deploying an alternative trusted force that would respect the residents and limit its mission to controlling and monitoring the border, instead of monitoring the border villages and towns.”
Meraabi also called for “opening a serious investigation in order to unveil the circumstances of the death of the two young men at the hands of the Common Border Force, especially that the locals did not use firearms at all before, during and after the incident.”
For his part, ex-MP Mohammed Yehia, who hails from the Wadi Khaled area, called for “opening an investigation into the incident,” as well as for “pacifying things … and returning the situation to normalcy.”
Later Saturday, the MPs and dignitaries of the Akkar District held an emergency meeting to discuss the incident.
After the meeting, MP Khaled al-Daher recited a statement in the name of the conferees, who called on “the national unity government and the Lebanese Army Command to redefine the missions of the Common Border Force and limit them to preventing the smuggling of arms and individuals according to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.”
The conferees also called for “limiting the presence of the Common Border Force to the Lebanese-Syrian border and withdrawing its members from the villages and towns of Wadi Khaled.”
Daher called on the security and military forces to “enforce the law on all Lebanese territories,” noting that the residents of Wadi Khaled have been “suffering since a long time from the acts and misbehaviors of the members of the Common Border Force.”