Lebanon seeks arms to battle jihadists

August 06, 2014 - 12:53:47 am
Lebanese soldiers leave the town of Arsal near the Syrian border on the fourth day of fierce fighting against Islamist militants in the area, yesterday.

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s army chief yesterday urged France to speed up promised weapons supplies to help his troops as they battle jihadists on the Syrian border.

After an afternoon of fighting in the eastern area where troops have been clashing with militants since Saturday, ambulances entered the town of Arsal amid reports of a truce.

Earlier, three policemen being held by jihadists were released, and there was a brief lull in the fighting, but shelling and artillery fire resumed last evening.

Tensions also rose in northern Lebanon, where clashes killed a child and wounded 11 other people, including seven soldiers.

France said it would respond “quickly,” and Saudi Arabia, which is financing the French arms purchases for Lebanon’s army, also pledged to accelerate implementation of the deal.

Lebanon’s army chief, General Jean Kahwaji, said the military was hamstrung in its fight against the jihadists.

“This battle requires equipment, materiel and technology that the army doesn’t have,” Kahwaji said.

“That’s why we need to speed up the delivery of the necessary military aid by finalising the list of weapons requested from France under a Saudi-financed deal.”

France insisted on Tuesday that it stood behind the Lebanese army.

“France is fully committed to supporting the Lebanese army, a pillar of stability and unity in Lebanon,” said Vincent Floreani, a foreign ministry spokesman.

“We are in close contact with our partners to quickly meet Lebanon’s needs.”

Clashes erupted in parts of the northern port city of Tripoli overnight and into yesterday.

Gunmen clashed with soldiers in the Bab El Tebbaneh district. The fighting killed a 12-year-old girl and injured 11 people, seven of them soldiers.