BEIRUT — Lebanon’s prime minister on Saturday criticized a visit by an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia leader to Lebanon’s border with Israel, saying it violated local law.
The trip by Qais al-Khazali, the founder and leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, or League of the Righteous, was organized by Lebanon’s Iranian proxy Hezbollah, the powerful terror group and arch-foe of Israel.
A video was aired by Asaib Ahl al-Haq al-Ahd TV station Thursday night showing al-Khazali along with several other people in military uniforms as they showed him around areas overlooking Israeli towns and villages. One of those guiding al-Khazali pointed to a mountainous region in a distance and told him “this is Golan,” in reference to the Golan Heights that was captured by Israel from Syria during the 1967 Mideast war.
Al-Khazali was later seen standing next to a wall on the border near the Fatima Gate in the Lebanese border village of Kfar Kila.
“We declare our full readiness to stand united with the Lebanese people and the Palestinian cause in the face of the Israeli occupation,” he can be heard saying in the recording.
Iran-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader Qais al-Khazali from Iraq on border: "I'm here with my brothers from Hezbollah, Islamic Resistance. We announce that we're fully prepared & ready to stand as one with Lebanese people with Palestinian cause in face of unjust Israeli occupation" pic.twitter.com/0shogWbeqc
— Wladimir (@vvanwilgenburg) December 9, 2017
Asaib Ahl al-Haq spokesman Jawad al-Tlibawi told AFP that the visit was “in solidarity with the cause of Arabs and Muslims, with occupied Palestine.”
“It’s a clear message to the Israeli entity, as well as solidarity with the Lebanese people if the Israeli entity attacks them,” he added.
In a statement, Prime Minister Saad Hariri said the visit took place six days ago and was a “violation of Lebanese laws,” without specifying further.
He added that he had instructed authorities to investigate and “take measures to prevent any person from carrying out military activities on Lebanese territory… and to prevent the person in the video from entering Lebanon.”
Asaib Ahl al-Haq is an Iran-backed group that is one of the main components of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force. It staged spectacular attacks against US troops before their withdrawal from Iraq in 2011.
Hezbollah has sent advisers to assist the force in its battle against the Islamic State terror group.
The Lebanese Hezbollah terror group, which seeks to destroy Israel, is also fighting in neighboring Syria, and has been accused of assisting Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Its regional interventions have been a source of tension in Lebanon, and were cited by Hariri when he announced last month that he was resigning.
He later withdrew his resignation after talks that saw Lebanon’s government issue a statement reasserting a policy of non-interference in regional conflicts.
Israel withdrew its forces from southern Lebanon in 2000, ending a 22-year presence in the country, but the two nations remain technically at war and there have been occasional skirmishes on the border.
Hezbollah moved into the vacated areas, and deployed all the way to the border fence. A devastating Hezbollah war against Israel followed in 2006 that killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 120 Israelis, most of them soldiers. Hezbollah had deployed in civilian areas of southern Lebanon.