“We condemn in the strongest terms the attacks by militants against the Lebanese Armed Forces."
Lebanon’s third largest city, Sidon, was the scene of fierce clashes earlier this week. In what observers say is a spillover from the conflict in Syria, now in its third year, the Lebanese army fought against armed followers of a radical Sunni cleric, Ahmed al-Assir, after assailants attacked an army checkpoint. Assir is a vehement critic of the Iran-backed Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah, which has sent fighters to Syria to support the Assad regime. Assir fighters reportedly attacked the army after officers attempted to arrest one of Assir’s gunmen.
Seventeen Lebanese soldiers were said to have been killed in the fighting, along with several others before the Lebanese army prevailed against the gunmen. The violence constituted the worst death toll for the army in a single incident since 2007.
“The United Sates is gravely concerned by the violent clashes in Sidon, Lebanon,” said U.S. State Department Press Office Director Patrick Ventrell at a briefing in Washington:
“We condemn in the strongest terms the attacks by militants against the Lebanese Armed Forces which have resulted in the deaths of a number of soldiers and civilians. We strongly support the calls for calm issued by President Sleiman, caretaker Prime Minister Miqati, Future Movement Leader Saad Hariri, and other political and religious leaders.”
“The United States “praises the efforts of the LAF [Lebanese Armed Forces] and Internal Security Forces in working with political leaders to maintain peace and stability” said Mr. Ventrell, “and renews its commitment to continue providing training and equipment to assist security forces in their critical role of preserving Lebanon’s unity.”
The United States has long been concerned about the destabilizing effect of the violent campaign of the Assad regime against the Syrian people endangering Syria’s neighbors and increasing sectarian tensions in the region.
U.S. State Department Press Office Director Ventrell emphasized that the United States “is fully committed to Lebanon’s stability, sovereignty, and independence. This is the time,” he said, “for the international community to stand with Lebanon and responsible Lebanese leaders in defense of the interest of the Lebanese people for a stable and sovereign country.”