BEIRUT: The lack of security in Beirut’s southern suburbs has led to an increasing number of complaints and outcries from people, with armed robberies taking place in broad daylight also on the rise.
A security source linked “the poor security conditions in Beirut’s southern suburbs to the deepening of the economic crisis.”
However, the source told Arab News that the main reason for these crimes was the loss of the state’s reputation.
A security source said there were armed robberies of motorcycles every day after robbers previously used to steal them at night.
Saleh said he was going to work in Haret Hreik and had parked his motorcycle on the side of the road due to heavy traffic. Someone pointed a knife at him, forcing him to leave his vehicle, before fleeing the area.
Thieves and gunmen have become bolder in carrying out their armed operations without any concern for security or party officials in Beirut’s southern suburbs, which are a Hezbollah stronghold and centers for the Amal Movement.
The suburbs have had security checkpoints since the 2014 attacks by Daesh suicide bombers.
People hear armed clashes every night without knowing the reasons or the identity of the shooters. They only know what happens through unsubstantiated information circulating on social media.
Reports from the Internal Security Forces showed that, after each raid by thieves or gunmen in these suburbs, most perpetrators were “wanted with some of them committing their crime because of dealing or using drugs.”
According to unofficial figures, the region is home to more than a million Lebanese citizens. Some migrated from the countryside to the capital in the second half of the 20th century.
Some are residents of towns included in Beirut’s southern suburbs, while others moved there due to apartments having cheaper rents than in the capital.
Hayy Al-Sullom is one of the poorest neighborhoods and is home to the marginalized and wanted individuals who use political parties for protection.
But having influence also extends to the owners of electric generators, internet providers, and owners of cable television. In March, armed clashes between two groups took place in Bi'r al-Abed due to one encroaching on the other's areas of influence.
Two weeks earlier, there were clashes in Laylaki at night due to fights between electric generator owners over clients. A month earlier, there were armed clashes between internet providers in Choueifat.
In the past few days, the drawing and firing of weapons have become easier. A fight broke out between two groups during a suhoor meal and shisha.
Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, concerned by public complaints ahead of upcoming elections, issued a joint statement recently about the increase of thefts, armed robberies, and breaches of security in different areas of Beirut’s southern suburbs to the “extent of spiraling out of control and posing a threat to life and safety.”
They asked representatives from security and military agencies to “strictly handle all people breaching security,” stressing that they would not defend anyone implicated.
The security source stressed: “Official security agencies are present in the southern suburbs, pursuing the wanted people and, in some cases, Hezbollah facilitates our mission and might lead us to the hiding place of a wanted person. While in some others, we do not inform Hezbollah that we will raid a specific place in the southern suburbs.”
Political agreements have given Hezbollah’s security committees the last word in the southern suburbs in all security-related matters.
On whether this meant that Hezbollah was protecting wanted people when it knew their hiding places, the source said: “Those thugs have reached a level of carelessness. They no longer fear Hezbollah.”
“Those thugs do not read or respond to statements,” the source added, when asked about the night-time shootings and daytime thefts despite Hezbollah and the Amal Movement’s decision to stop covering for anyone involved.
Zeinab, who lives in Al-Mureijah near Hayy Al-Sullom, said she feared her children would be unsafe if they wanted to leave the house at night and come back late.
She said machine guns - and even rockets - were used during clashes that erupted over trivial matters sometimes.
Two weeks ago, two armed robberies took place in the afternoon. The first was in a store for money transfers. Two people on a motorcycle broke into the shop and stole $8,000 from a client before fleeing. It was revealed they had been previously watching him.
Another gunman entered a smartphone store during the day and stole a client’s purse, then shot the shop's owner for trying to stop him, injuring his hand.