Lebanese Military Hostages will ‘pay the price’ for Qalamoun battle: Nusra video

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Hostages will ‘pay the price’ for Qalamoun battle: Nusra video
The Daily Star/May. 05, 2015

BEIRUT: A Lebanese hostage who appeared in a video released Tuesday by the Nusra Front said captives will “pay the price” for any upcoming battle in Syria’s Qalamoun.  Addressing fellow Shiite citizens “who are not affiliated with Hezbollah,” one of the seven hostages who appeared in the video said: “Stand up to [Hezbollah] party because if the Lebanese Army is going to be dragged into the [Qalamoun] battle and if [Hezbollah] headed for the battle on the [northeastern] outskirts, we will pay the price.”

Under the video posted to the Twitter account for Nusra’s Qalamoun branch was a hashtag that read: “A message from the Shiite prisoners. To fellow Shiites in Lebanon. Who will pay the price[?]”  The hostage who appeared as part of a group of seven other bearded captives did not give his name.  Qalamoun is a barren and arid region on the Syrian-Lebanese border and has been the scene of numerous clashes between Hezbollah and Islamist militants. In August 2014, more than 30 Lebanese soldiers and policemen were taken captive by Nusra and ISIS during a battle in the northeastern town of Arsal.  Four have since been killed, and eight released.

In recent weeks there has been anticipation of a Hezbollah offensive against the jihadis in Qalamoun, but the party has said it is only aiming to cut off their supply routes and keep them isolated in the area.  The soldier in the Nusra video posted online Tuesday called on “our Sunni people” to confront Hezbollah and put an end to its dominance over state institutions, including the notorious Roumieh Prison.
“Stand up to [Hezbollah] which is steering all those people in the Lebanese government who are doing these bad acts,” he said, flanked by six fellow hostages sitting on mattresses.

He also urged the hostage families to “communicate” with the Nusra Front to keep them updated throughout the negotiations to free the 25 Lebanese servicemen who are still being held captive.  “Don’t listen to anyone anymore … Form a committee and designate an honest negotiator; perhaps someone like [Health Minister] Mr. Wael Abu Faour, or [PSP leader] Mr. Walid Jumblatt or [Justice Minister] Ashraf Rifi,” he said in his message to the hostage families.

The hostages in the video took turns giving similar messages that urged the Lebanese Army to distance itself from the Qalamoun battle.
They also blasted General Security head Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim for what they said were false promises.  In the afternoon, the families held a news conference near their protest tents in Downtown Beirut where they called on the state to “stop lying,” “claim responsibility” and end the 10-month-long crisis.

“I beg you to put your political disputes aside,” a brother of one of the captives said, addressing Lebanese politicians. “Let’s agree to unite and become stronger so that we bring our sons back. You can resolve your domestic disputes after that.”  Hussein Youssef, the families’ spokesman and father of kidnapped serviceman Mohammad Youssef, called on Rifi to cooperate with Ibrahim and anyone who can help bring the hostages back.

 Meanwhile, the sister of one of the captives, who spoke at the conference, criticized Hezbollah.  “We have nothing to do with you or with what you are doing,” she said, addressing the party. “We are Shiites, but we belong to the state. We cannot be responsible for what Hezbollah is doing in Syria or elsewhere.”  “We disown Hezbollah in front of everyone.”  The families warned that if the government does not take any tangible steps, they are heading toward a serious escalation.  “We will target any facility or institution from which the politicians make profit or benefit in any way,” Youssef said.

Another relative of a servicemen addressed Prime Minister Tammam Salam.  “Why didn’t you mention the names of the Lebanese servicemen at the Arab Summit in front of all Arab leaders? Why didn’t you mention our sons?” he asked, calling on the Nusra Front to “show mercy” because “our state is lying to us.”  The families said they asked Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri for an appointment Tuesday, but he has yet to respond. They said they might be also be meeting Salam.