Lebanese Christians are outraged after residents of a Lebanese town saw Hezbollah activists installing telecommunications equipment outside a church. Their concern: that the Shiite terrorist group will spy on Christians. This, as a Lebanese website reports that Hezbollah sends information collected on its private grid to Iran.
Hezbollah activists were seen earlier this week installing telecommunications equipment outside a church in Zahle in the Beqaa Valley, raising suspicions in the town whose population is predominantly Christian that new phone network will be used to spy on the Christian community. Those fears prompted locals to take to the streets to protest its installation.
Compounding those concerns, the Lebanese news site Ya Libnan quoted a report on Radio Free Lebanon that Hezbollah has set up a wiretapping network in several towns along Lebanon’s western mountain range.
The report said that some of the data collected on the network is then “immediately sent” by the Lebanese Shiite group to Iran.
Lebanon’s Daily Star reports that Christian Members of Parliament (MP) have appealed to Lebanese President Michel Suleiman to demand Hezbollah take down the network and say the local community will dismantle the equipment if the government doesn’t step in.
“Installing this network is part of Hezbollah’s efforts to control the security of Lebanese society through eavesdropping on phone calls, and have its own network illegally overlap with that of the state,” MP Tony Abu Khater said.
When local residents demonstrated against the network’s installation, the Army had to be called in to restore calm, according to Lebanese media reports.
The Daily Star reports:
Speaking to The Daily Star, the protesters said a minibus with Hezbollah members arrived near St. Charbel Church on the eastern outskirts of Zahle at 5 a.m. Sunday to install the party’s own “telecoms grid.” The protesters said other Hezbollah members were seen guarding the vehicle.
“We first figured out that they were members of Hezbollah from their black cars with tinted windows. … We tried to tell them to stop working, but they ignored it,” one of the protesters told the Daily Star.
Abu Khater asked why Hezbollah would need to install the grid in the majority Christian town.
“I ask Hezbollah’s political, military and security officials: What do you want from Zahle, the city of peace?” he asked.
The Daily Star reports that while Hezbollah has not commented on this latest controversy, Hezbollah uses a private telecommunications network it says is essential for keeping its operational planning secret. Both the U.S. and Israel classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
Another Member of Parliament says that Zahle residents plan to take down the equipment if Hezbollah does not do it voluntarily.
“If the party has members who wear black shirts, we also have people who wear black shirts and if they have people who install cables, we have people who can remove them,” MP Elie Marouni said.
This story has been updated.
(H/T: Israel National News)