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Lebanese weapons alarm: Syrian rebels ‘major clients’

Published time: May 28, 2012 08:15
Edited time: May 28, 2012 12:15

Free Syrian Army fighters shout "Allahu Akbar" near Deraa in this still image taken from a video obtained by Reuters May 17, 2012 (Reuters/Handout via Reuters TV)

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Illegal arms smuggling in Syria’s neighbor Lebanon has caused outcry, with the UN urging the government to tackle the issue. In the midst of Syria’s spiraling conflict, more reports of Lebanese weapons fueling uprisings are coming to light.

"Such weapons create alarm, and the situation must be addressed from the perspective of protecting the welfare and safety of Lebanese society as a whole," said UN Special Coordinator Derek Plumbly on the Voice of Lebanon radio station.

He urged the Lebanese government to "take stock of these inappropriate and unsafe phenomena and incidents," stressing the importance of distancing Lebanon from turmoil in Syria and calming escalating tensions.

However, there have been repeated reports of weapons moving through Lebanon and an increase in arms prices.
RT correspondent Maria Finoshina met with a weapons smuggler calling himself Shadi in Beirut who described the Syrian rebels as “major clients.”

“Bullets are very popular. But recently they are looking for really heavy stuff. We buy it from Hezbollah and their allies and resell – they have enough and they get it for free – as Iran makes their entire storages packed,” said Shadi. He added that he would keep on supporting the opposition until they managed to “topple” President Assad.

Ahmed Abubarri, a Free Syria Army field commander currently receiving medical treatment in the north of Lebanon told Maria Finoshina that “tons” of aid passes through his hands across the border into Syria every day.

“We have support from Syrian expats everywhere in the world, people from Britain, France, Saudi Arabia – they also send us money, we buy weapons, walky-talkies, satellites and smuggle them through the Syrian borders,” he told RT.

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Conflict bleeding over the border

Last week’s armed riots in Beirut saw opposition groups and supporters of the Syrian regime clash in deadly gun battles. Sporadic violence was triggered in the country when prominent Sunni cleric Ahmad Abdel Wahed, a known supporter of the Syrian opposition was gunned down by the Lebanese army.

Syria’s envoy to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari sent a letter to the UN last week, claiming areas on the Syrian-Lebanese border “have become an incubator for terrorist elements from the Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood organizations who are tampering with the security of Syria and its citizens.”

The letter was dismissed by the UN on the basis that it was not founded on “verified facts.”

The UN had previously said there was evidence of a two-way smuggling route across the Syrian-Lebanese border, but maintains that Syrian regime forces severely outgun the Syrian rebels.

Lebanese authorities seized 60,000 rounds of ammunition stashed in an Italian container ship in the northern port city of Tripoli on May 7. Similarly in April Lebanese officials intercepted a ship bound for Tripoli carrying rocket-propelled grenades and heavy caliber ammunition.

The city of Tripoli is populated by a Sunni Muslim majority and has seen regular violence and protests against the rule of President Assad in neighboring Syria.

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