Damascus is pressing forward with its plan to occupy Greater Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city and port, DEBKAfile's military sources report. To this end, 10,000 Syrian commando troops have massed at Abboudieh on the Lebanese border ready to follow an advance force which occupied seven villages around the northern city earlier this month, as first disclosed by DEBKAfile on Sept. 20. To read the article click HERE.
A Lebanese army spokesman first denied the concentration while the mainstream Israeli media ran the official denial without checking the story out.
However, when witnesses said the boosted Syrian deployment was visible from the Lebanese side of the border Tuesday, Sept. 23, the spokesman issued a new statement. He said Beirut had asked Damascus for clarifications and was told the measure was “internal and in no way directed against Lebanon.” This left the deployment with the option of striking at anti-Syrian militias operating outside the Lebanese army in the Tripoli region.
Damascus stressed the move was linked to a crackdown against smugglers (sic).
In yet another “clarification,” the measure was linked to digging new wells along the Syrian-Lebanese border.
These various “clarifications” are so implausible that Damascus is obviously unconcerned about any serious challenge to its sudden build-up of a 10,000-strong special forces deployment.
This sort of strength, say DEBKAfile’s military sources, is deployed for war operations, not anti-smuggling policing.
Tuesday, unofficial Lebanese sources confirmed that Syrian commandos had occupied Wadi al-Ashaer, a village in the Rashaya district in the North.
Our sources add that this is only one of the seven villages captured by an advance Syrian force in northern Lebanon last week, after which Damascus advised Washington and Paris not to interfere. It is now engaged in building fortifications and paving military road links for the main body of special forces to move in.
Syrian occupation of northern Lebanon will make profound inroads on the strategic position of the United States and Israel in this part of the Middle East, yet Washington and Jerusalem are turning a blind eye.