BEIRUT: The Central Security Council in Lebanon decided on Thursday to set up “more checkpoints to prevent the repeated thefts in various regions.”
The decision was a response to the recent increase in pickpocketing, vehicle thefts and even home burglaries increased as power cuts have plunged streets in Lebanon into darkness. This has encouraged thieves to freely roam at night, even in Hezbollah’s secure areas.
Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi made the announcement after a meeting with all the security services chiefs in Lebanon.
“Thieves and troublemakers will be pursued and brought to justice,” he said. “They will not be safe in any region.”
Lebanon “is one nation and should not have any hotbeds that help criminals and fugitives escape the law,” said Mawlawi.
Activist Fadi Nazzal tweeted: “A storm of pickpocketing and thefts hit the southern suburbs of Beirut. More than 10 people I know personally have been attacked and robbed. Before the eyes of the security services, wanted men roam freely.”
Thefts across the country represent yet another serious problem for Lebanon’s population.
On Wednesday night, the Lebanese army cracked down on a gang in Al-Amrousiyah, which is considered a Hezbollah-affiliated area in the southern suburbs of Beirut.
The gang carried out an armed robbery at the Byblos Bank branch in Zalka the day before and shot the branch manager. They also opened fire at the army during the raid.
The army reported that two gang members died at the scene trying to escape by jumping from a balcony on the fifth floor, while the third gang member was arrested.
Mawlawi has asked the Lebanese General Security to take measures to deport the members of the Bahraini Al-Wefaq group, which had held a press conference in Beirut during which it offended the Kingdom of Bahrain. The group has close links to Hezbollah.
After the Central Security Council meeting, Mawlawi explained the step by saying: “We are taking necessary decisions that are in the interest of the Lebanese State.”
Hezbollah supporters took to social media to criticize Mawlawi’s decision, accusing the government of taking anti-Hezbollah action.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Thursday: “Lebanon adheres to its close ties with the brotherly Arab countries, especially the Gulf states.”
Lebanon “will not be a platform for insulting any Arab country or interfering in its affairs,” he said.
Meanwhile, Beirut announced a campaign to curb the increasing number of beggars on Beirut’s streets, especially in areas with restaurants and shops.
“These beggars deliberately harass passers-by,” the municipality stated.
“City guards are pursuing waste scavengers who pull garbage from designated containers and throw them in the streets, causing the proliferation of insects and rodents and the emission of unpleasant odors.”
The deteriorating economic conditions led to public transport drivers taking to the streets in protest on Thursday.
Later in the day, a man died in Baalbek from severe burns after he poured gasoline on his body and set himself on fire to protest against difficult living conditions.
The National Program for Mental Health, the World Health Organization and Embrace — an NGO which works to raise awareness around mental health in Lebanon and the Middle East —revealed in a conference they held in Beirut recently that “psychological collapse is creeping up on Lebanese of all ages, raising the risk of suicide.”
According to recent statistics, at least one person commits suicide in Lebanon every 48 hours.