Lebanon’s top Christian leader insisted at Sunday Mass this week that the government finally exert control over the south of the country and prevent Hezbollah from firing more rockets at neighboring Israel.
“We call upon the Lebanese [Armed Forces], which is responsible with the international forces for the security of the south, to take control of the entire lands of the south, to strictly implement [UN Security Council Resolution 1701], and to prevent the launching of missiles from Lebanese territory,” said Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai in his weekly sermon.
The cleric clarified that his primary concern was not “the safety of Israel, but rather the safety of Lebanon.”
Cardinal Rai insisted that Lebanon remains committed to the 1949 truce and is not officially at war with Israel. “We do not want to involve Lebanon in military operations that provoke devastating Israeli reactions,” he stressed.
Last week Palestinian militants fired two rockets into northern Israel. Two days later, Hezbollah launched another 19, prompting heavy Israeli artillery fire and limited air strikes. See: Bennett Government Will Fall if Israel Attacks Lebanon, Insists Coalition MK to understand why the Israeli response was not stronger.
Cardinal Rai has been beating this drum for several years. Last August, he similarly insisted that Lebanon return to a state of neutrality, and hinted that Hezbollah’s belligerent activity was one of the key factors behind Lebanon’s economic hardships.
In 2014, Cardinal Rai unapologetically visited the “enemy state” of Israel along with Pope Francis, and was warmly welcomed by the large Maronite Christian community here.
For more on this topic, see:
- Lebanon: Christian Cardinal Provokes Hezbollah
- Can Christians Turn Lebanon Around?
- New Hope for Lebanon