BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS OF LEBANON
H.E. Mr. FUAD SINIORA 28 MAY 2007
– On Sunday, May 20th, Fateh al Islam attacked army positions in Tripoli brutally killing 32 soldiers most of whom were off-duty at the time. According to our investigations and confessions from suspects in custody, Fateh Al Islam was behind the terrorist bus bombings in Ain Alaq on February 13th in which innocent civilians lost their lives. They were also responsible for a number of robberies. The recent clashes have coincided with the three bombings in Beirut and Aley the past week and preliminary investigations point to the same group.
– This is not a war between Lebanon and the Palestinians. It is a war that was launched against both the Lebanese and the Palestinians. We are fighting a fringe group called Fateh al Islam, composed of a number of terrorists of various nationalities, who have illegally infiltrated into Lebanon and assembled in the Palestinian Nahr Al Bared refugee camp, using it as a base for its operations effectively hijacking it against the will of its residents. In fact, the Palestinian population taken hostage inside the camp has repeatedly requested their departure. Both the Lebanese and the Palestinians are the victims of this group’s malicious acts and ideology whose ends and ambitions are neither connected nor related to Islam or Palestine.
– The Palestinian Authority has publicly condemned Fateh Al Islam and asserted that it bears no connection to the political organizations in Palestine. Also, the various Palestinian factions have all publicly disassociated themselves from this terrorist group condemning the attack against the Lebanese army from the start. They have also committed to assist the Lebanese government in putting an end to this phenomenon.
– The Arab League and the UN Security Council also released very strong statements of support for our efforts, concurrently and accurately identifying the group we are facing as terrorists whose ends and ambitions are completely disconnected from and unrelated to Islam or the Palestinian cause.
– With the help of local Palestinian groups, we have urged Fateh Al Islam to surrender in order to face a fair and judicial legal process as opposed to further confrontation and violence.
– We remain fully committed to the just Palestinian cause and stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine. Since its inception, this government has made concerted efforts to improve the livelihoods of the Palestinian refugees living in the camps. It has worked hard to rally support for our plan for improved camp conditions from a number of countries in the international community. Unfortunately, Fateh Al Islam is clearly thwarting these efforts by destabilizing and aggravating the dire conditions in the camps.
– We are also concerned about the humanitarian situation and have taken steps to address the issue in securing a cessation of hostilities to allow civilians to exit the camp. We are being as cautious as possible in the hope of sparing unnecessary loss of life. It should however be noted that Fatah Al Islam are firing from civilians areas, targeting by sniper fire any civilians trying to flee. Their obvious aim is to use the helpless refugee population as a human shield, which is both immoral and illegal under all international human rights and humanitarian law.
– According to our sources and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the vast majority of the camp’s residents have in fact left and are being well taken care of at nearby camps and locations. We are also working on sending humanitarian supplies into the camp for those who remain.
– Now more than ever, the international community has a responsibility toward Palestinian refugees and refugee camps and is called upon to fulfill it. We greatly appreciate all humanitarian support being dispatched, helping to alleviate the humanitarian conditions of the innocent people who have been affected by these troubling events.
– We are fighting terrorists to protect Lebanon and the safety and security of all the people, Lebanese, Palestinian, and others living here. No country in the world would allow for such attacks against their own soldiers and citizens to occur within their borders, especially at the hands of foreign fighters who entered the country illegally. The Lebanese government and army are doing their utmost to deal with this threat decisively yet cautiously. The alternative would be very dangerous, sending a message to outlaws and terrorists around the world that Lebanon would be easy and fertile ground for their operations. Lebanon rejects and fully condemns terrorism and will not tolerate it under any circumstances.
– The Lebanese army, fully backed by the entire population, remains the sole entity with the right to legitimately exercise the use of force, as a last resort, in defending its citizens’ security. Lebanon will not be a land of lawlessness and impunity. It has suffered a lot from irresolution, permissiveness and interventions over more than forty years. We will stand firm and insure that our country remains a land of liberty, sovereignty and stability, where citizens are safe and protected by the rule of law. We will continue to be the responsible member of the Arab and international community, respectful of its laws and resolutions. Lebanon has always stood for the noble principles of coexistence, plurality, freedom, democracy, tolerance, openness and moderation. We will live up to our legacy.