Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji stressed on Thursday that the military had all the necessary capabilities to engage in tough battles with terrorists in the northeastern border town of Arsal, revealing that the United States and France will provide the institution with further aid.
“We had the essential ammunition to engage in a long and fierce battle with the terrorists,” Qahwaji said in comments published in As Safir newspaper, denying that the army lacked the necessary equipment in the Arsal clashes.
He stressed that the U.S. accelerated the pace of delivering the military aid to the army, noting that Washington and France will further assist the Lebanese military with advanced weapons.
Asked about the $1 billion Saudi grant for the army, the high-ranking army official pointed out that the mechanism to buy arms kicked off, lamenting the delay in purchasing of French weapons under a $3 billion deal financed by Riyadh.
“The delay in spending the $3 billion grant is due to routine work,” Qahwaji remarked.
In August, al-Mustaqbal Movement leader Saad Hariri announced that Saudi Arabia, one of his chief allies, would give $1 billion to shore up the army and security forces against jihadists.
Saudi Arabia is already financing a $3-billion package of French military equipment and arms for the army although bureaucracy has slowed down the procedure.
Concerning the army’s measures in Arsal, the official said that the “army will not allow any gasoline tankers or food trucks to pass to the outskirts of the town to block the road on gunmen.”
He noted that the military units deployed in the Bekaa village controlled all crossings and roads between Arsal and its outskirts.
On Wednesday, several residents from Arsal blocked the road after the army prevented the transfer of diesel and gasoline to the outskirts of the town.
Arsal lies 12 kilometers from the border with Syria and has been used as a conduit for weapons and rebels to enter Syria, while also serving as a refuge for people fleeing the conflict in the neighboring country.
The region witnessed clashes in August between the army and Islamist militants from Syria prompted by the arrest of a member of the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front.
There has been growing resentment in Lebanon against Syrian refugees after the militants abducted following the clashes a number of soldiers and policemen and the anger escalated after the jihadists beheaded two captive army troops.
At least 47,000 Syrian refugees have taken shelter in the Bekaa town, where many residents sympathize with the Syrian uprising against President Bashar Assad.