Hamas is not only a menace to Israel through its enclave in the Gaza Strip; it is also a threat to Lebanon’s stability and its future as a sovereign state. Along with Hezbollah, Hamas is doing Iran’s bidding against Israel along the border and preventing the Lebanese authorities from asserting full control over the Lebanese state. If Hamas’ activities aren’t curbed, it will lead to a devastating war with Israel that Lebanon cannot afford.
Last month (December 10, 2021), a huge explosion occurred in the Burj el-Shemali Palestinian refugee camp adjacent to the ancient city of Tyre in southern Lebanon. The fire from the explosion reached a weapons depot belonging to Hamas, which contained assorted arms and ammunition. Hamas quickly closed the area and prevented the Lebanese security forces from having access to the site of the explosion, as well as keeping Palestinian factions from investigating the cause of the explosion. According to Lebanon’s al-Nahar, December 11, 2021, following the explosion the Lebanese army cordoned off the area outside the camp but refrained from entering it. In thwarting Lebanese authorities from inquiring into the explosion, it seems Hamas is repeating Hezbollah’s tactics of making a mockery of Lebanese sovereign authority. Hezbollah has obstructed the investigation into the September 2020 massive explosion in the Port of Beirut warehouses, which it owns. In both the Tyre and Beirut explosions, the damage to humans and property was severe.
Hamas’ habitual disregard for human lives in the Gaza Strip has repeated itself in the Burj el-Shemali refugee camp in Tyre. In both cases, civilians have been used as “human shields.” The fact that Hamas placed its arms depot in the heart of a residential area proves the point. Following the funeral of a Hamas leader and engineer Hizma Ibrahim Shanin, who died as a result of the explosion, a firefight broke out between Hamas and Fatah armed men, resulting in the death of several Hamas operatives.
While Hezbollah operates along the Israeli-Lebanese border in clear contravention of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 that called for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) to deploy along the border, Hamas has now been firing rockets at Israel from the border area with Hezbollah’s apparent compliance, if not encouragement. The Lebanese civilian and military authorities have been unable or unwilling to disarm the various terror groups including Hamas, and are looking the other way on Hamas’ operations along the border.
The Lebanese public has long demanded the disarmament of all militias and terror groups in the country, including naturally Hamas, as well as Hezbollah. The Taif Agreement of 1989 stipulated the following: “Disbanding of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias shall be announced. The militias’ weapons shall be delivered to the State of Lebanon within a period of 6 months, beginning with the approval of the national accord charter.” The Taif Accord had clearly not been enforced. While all other militias handed over their heavy arms, Hezbollah and the Palestinians did not. As a result, Hezbollah today exerts full political and military control in the Land of the Cedars due to its weaponry being far more sophisticated and numerous than that of the LAF (courtesy of Iran). In addition, many of the LAF soldiers are Hezbollah supporters. That makes the Shiite cleric Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, not Lebanon’s constitutional President Michel Aoun, the real power in the country.
The problem of Lebanon’s lack of sovereignty has added to the already severe economic and political crisis in the country. The 192,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have lived there for at least 70-years. The Palestinian leaderships through the decades have demanded that the Arab host countries deny the Palestinian refugees permanent status, let alone citizenship. It was a merciless act of using propaganda by the Palestinian and Arab leaders against the Jewish state, at the expense of Palestinian families. In Lebanon today, the Sunni-Muslims would like to enfranchise the Palestinians as full citizens. After all, they share the same culture, language, and religion. Christians oppose that because it would tip the demographic balance in the confessional system of governance, in favor of Muslims. Some have suggested that Lebanon send the Palestinians off elsewhere in the Arab world just as Kuwait did following the Gulf War.
The Lebanese have good reasons for getting rid of the Palestinians. Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), having been ejected from Jordan in 1970, following their attempted takeover of the kingdom, have subsequently occupied Southern Lebanon and made it into “Fatahland” (named after Arafat’s Fatah faction) – a state-within-a-state. By accepting the 1969 Cairo Agreement, Lebanon legitimized the PLO, granting it control over Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and enabled the PLO terrorists to attack Israel. The 1982 war between Israel and Arafat’s terrorist organization helped Lebanon get rid of the menace called the Fatah that was greatly responsible for the savage Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) that killed over 100,000 and displaced over 1,000,000. Arafat and his gang of terrorists moved to Tunisia, but the many Palestinian non-combatants that remained should have been granted citizenship and adequate living or sent along with Arafat to Tunisia.
The Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon have become an extended arm of Hezbollah and its paymaster – the Islamic Republic of Iran. Hamas’ brand of political Islam coupled with its close identification with the Iranian Revolution has made it part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) tool in the region both inside the Gaza Strip and Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria. Moreover, the explosion at the Burj el-Shemali Palestinian refugee camp has revealed the progress Hamas is making in constructing a military-terrorist base in Lebanon. Hamas aims to create another front from which to attack when it next provokes a war with Israel.
A report by the Alma Research and Education Center pointed out that Hamas has “Two operational units in Lebanon – el-Shimali and Khalid Ali. With the assistance of the Construction Bureau, the two operational units recruit members, train them in specialized combat skills such as sniping, anti-tank missile attacks, operating drones, and more. The units also develop and produce their own weapons – rockets, defensive drones, and small unmanned underwater vehicles. They set up operational cells while preparing attack plans against Israel.” The Report added, “Hamas’ activities in Lebanon occur with the assistance and supervision of the Iranian Quds Force.”
To preserve its security and sovereignty, the Lebanese authorities must curtail Hamas’ activities in Lebanon before the latter involves Lebanon in an unwanted war with Israel. The consequences of such a war will doom all efforts to resuscitate the Lebanese economy and its political life.