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Lebanon: thousands at risk as prime minister announces Arsal security operation

Town is home to 100,000 Syrian refugees

Responding to a statement by Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri today announcing an imminent security operation in the outskirts of Arsal - a town in north-east Lebanon near the Syrian border currently home to 100,000 Syrian refugees - Lynn Maalouf, Middle-East Director of Research for Amnesty International, said:

“It is of the utmost importance for the Lebanese army and other sides involved in the fighting in Arsal to prioritise the protection of Lebanese residents as well as Syrian refugees in the area.

“They must refrain from using lethal force except when it is unavoidable for self-defence or defenses of others against threats of death and serious injury. Thousands of lives are on the line.

“Syrian refugees in Arsal are living in extremely harsh conditions in packed tented settlements. 

“The Lebanese army must ensure that the operation is carried out in a manner that protects the right to life and other human rights. Use of explosive weapons in these circumstances would be contrary to Lebanon’s obligations under international law and likely to lead to arbitrary deaths.

“The Lebanese army must facilitate the safe evacuation of residents from Arsal and allow unimpeded access for aid organisations and emergency medical services into the town. It must ensure that anyone detained in the operation is treated in accordance with international human rights law and standards.”

Deadly clashes in 2014

In August 2014, fierce clashes erupted in Arsal between the Lebanese army and armed groups including Islamic State and Jabhat Al Nusra after 36 Lebanese security personnel were abducted. As a result of the clashes, 489 people were reportedly wounded and at least 59 people - including 15 local residents and 44 Syrians - were killed.

Lebanese border areas come under regular fire from Syria, where ISIS is still holding Lebanese soldiers and security officials that its forces abducted from Lebanon in 2014. 

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