Lebanese Christians are taking precautions as the Islamic State (ISIS) continues to terrorize Iraq and Syria. Men grabbed weapons and set out for the hills to prepare for an eventual attack by the terrorist group.
“We all know that if they come, they will slit our throats for no reason,” said one resident.
It is the first time civilians have picked up weapons in the nation since the end of the Lebanon civil war. The majority of these weapons come from communist militias and Hezbollah, the Associated Press notes, but Christians say they do not care if the weapons raise tensions in the country. They believe the threat is real and need to rely on self-defense.
Samir Geagea, a Lebanese politician running for president, spoke out against ISIS and urged everyone in Lebanon to unite.
“ISIS is a cancerous tumor that surfaced at first in parts of Iraq and Syria and it’s still contained to a certain point and this can be removed only if we join our efforts via an international Arab alliance,” he said. “If they’re trying to intimidate us then do not fear them. … Those who faced major challenges and the likes of ISIS throughout history should not fear those today.”
ISIS does not have a strong presence in Lebanon, but the terrorist group pops up around the country. They attacked Arsal in August. It is a border town with 40,000 residents, but is also a city for Syrians who fled their civil war. The United Nations said over 1.1 million people registered as refugees in Arsal. One man said shelling burned down one refugee camp. The Lebanese Army fought off the terrorists, but ISIS managed to escape with Lebanon weapons and vehicles.
In Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city, two black ISIS flags appeared in shops. From Lebanon’s The Daily Star:
While the first Islamist flag, or al-raya, is a ubiquitous sight in Tripoli – where it is hung from street posts and across storefronts to show piety and Sunni pride – the second is far less common.
Yet the ISIS-affiliated insignia is increasingly appearing outside some shops around Tripoli and is being donned by protesters at Islamist rallies in the city, a potential signal of the radical group’s growing reach and level of support in Lebanon’s second-biggest city. Others, however, insist it is merely a symbol of Sunni unity and pride.
This past week, two separate ISIS messages appeared on Christian churches in Tripoli. “The Islamic State will break the cross” was spray painted on the Mar Elias Church in Minieh. Another person spray painted “We came to slaughter you, you worshipers of the cross” on the March Elias Church in Mina.
ISIS destroyed Christian towns and expelled Christians in Syria and Iraq. Many of them escaped to Lebanon since the country has the most Christians in the Middle East. Muslims also reached out to help the Christians. Dar al-Fatwa, the highest Sunni religious authority in Lebanon, provided food boxes for Christians at the Assyrian Diocese in Sadd al-Boushrieh. Archdeacon Yatroun Colliana and representatives from Dar al-Fatwa “presided over the distribution of aid” and “said the aid would continue as a signal of unity between Christians and Muslims, so long as the ‘tragedies’ facing Christians in Iraq and Syria continued.”
But it is not just Christians on ISIS’s radar. The terrorist group told Turkish news Agency Anadolu they beheaded a second Lebanese soldier. Medlej allegedly tried to escape the group. ISIS captured Medlej and Ali Sayyed during the clashes in Arsal. Lebanese officials believe ISIS has more than 27 Lebanese soldiers.