A top Lebanese official has warned that its military will “pursue” anyone who attacks it, after two troops were killed in a clash with Islamists in the country’s east.
“Any hand that aggresses [sic] against the army will be cut off,” army commander Jean Kahwaji told newspaper Al-Safir on Monday, February 4.
“We will pursue the attackers wherever they are, and whatever party they are loyal to,” Kahwaji added.
The army chief said on Sunday that Friday’s attack on an army patrol in the east Lebanon area of Arsal, near the Syrian border, was “premeditated” and that the soldiers were killed in a “barbaric way”.
“Methods were used that are against our Christian and Muslim beliefs,” he said of the attack, in which two Lebanese soldiers, one a captain, were killed.
Security officials have identified the attackers as Islamic terrorists.
A local official told AFP the soldiers were killed using axes and their corpses mutilated, adding that they had likely been tortured before their deaths.
Following the attack, the army launched an extensive security operation in the area.
Kahwaji praised the army on Sunday for “standing in the face of plans for our country to be consumed by regional chaos”, AFP reported.
Lebanon has suffered a spillover of Syria’s raging war, which, according to the UN, has left 60,000 people dead in nearly two years.
Northern and eastern Lebanon have been hit by frequent cross-border shellings and clashes, while the Syrian regime has told Lebanon to better control its porous border to prevent the smuggling of fighters and arms.
According to Al-Safir newspaper, Friday’s ambush “is an indicator of the risk posed by (Islamist) cells that have been created on the frontline due to the Syrian crisis”.
Lebanon, which was dominated politically and militarily by Syria for nearly 30 years, is sharply divided over the Syrian revolt, which erupted in March 2011.
Shiite movement Hezbollah and its allies back the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, while the Sunni-led Future movement and its allies support the revolt.