Some of the details are less than clear in this story in today’s Daily Star (Lebanon) but apparently, the Lebanese Army was tipped off to a stockpile of 75 Grad rockets (which, like so many other global problems, are manufactured in Russia) at a private farm. A few days ago, they searched the farm, seized the rockets, and detained the farm’s owner.
Now comes Al-Jamaa al-Islamiyya (a terrorist group linked to both the assassination of Anwar Sadat and to the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 — and several other spectacular acts of terrorism) to claim the rockets as its property. The tenor of the story is even more incredible than the narrative itself:
Ibrahim al-Masri, deputy secretary general of Al-Jamaa al-Islamiyya, told The Daily Star on Sunday that the “confiscated rockets belong to us and they were moved from the border town of Arqoub – where they were being used to fight Israel – to Rashaya” after peacekeepers moved into the border area following the July war.
Masri said the group “will demand that the army return the rockets and release the owner of the home where the rockets were discovered.”
“I do not know the man [who was detained],” he said, “but if he is not a member of Al-Jamaa, he is definitely a supporter.” He said the rockets were “not being used for any terrorist purpose but to resist the Zionist enemy and to defend the local inhabitants.”
Suffice to say that it is technically illegal, under Lebanese and international law, for any private group to possess missiles in Lebanon. It is perhaps understandable that the Lebanese Army cannot now stand up to Hezbollah, an organization which has the scope and capacity to challenge the state itself in Lebanon.
But the Lebanese Army’s failure to impose its authority against this much more modest terrorist organization should occasion an international outcry — and perhaps even Security Council action. The outcome here will set an important precedent.