The threat of Islamic State has crossed the borders of Syria to neighboring Lebanon, making Christians there arm themselves to defend their land and families from the extremists. RT goes to the Syrian-Lebanese border, to meet the militias.
More than 20 people have been killed in northern Lebanon in clashes between the army and Sunni militants in the past four days. AP quoted Lebanese security officials as saying that 12 soldiers and 10 civilians were killed while 92 soldiers and 63 civilians have been wounded since Friday.
"With the Syrian war next door, we have many troubles, many suspicious people come here, we have to be on high alert. We have to defend our land from terrorists, from ISIS and Nusra Front [al-Qaeda branch operating in the area," Abu Tony, a militia member of the town of Qaa in north-western Lebanon told RT.
Qaa militia patrol the border area every night, with thousands of Islamic State fighters and other jihadists reportedly massing on the border with Lebanon near the town of Arsal, less than 20 miles away.
There are concerns the militants are about to launch an onslaught against the Christian population in the region.
"Behind this mountain there are militants and they always try to infiltrate here. Last time, just five days ago, with fought with them and killed most of them," Abu Georges of Qaa militia told RT.
The men of Qaa, which is situated some three miles from the Syrian border, organized themselves six months ago. There are around 300 in the group, with more self-defenders expected to join the militia forces.
Thousands of civilians had to flee their homes in northern Lebanon's Tripoli area over the weekend, under the threat of Islamic State militants attack.
Christians maintain considerable power in Lebanon, with estimates suggesting the number is roughly equal to Muslims. The exact percent of Christian believers has been disputed for decades, with the last official census conducted in the country in 1932, but studies show there might be up to 40 percent currently living in Lebanon.
According to a report, published at the start of the year by a group monitoring persecution of Christians worldwide, at least 2,100 Christians died because of their beliefs in 2013. Most of the dead were in Syria, where radical Islamist groups have clamped down on a long-established religious minority.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas submitted a request Monday for an emergency UN Security Council meeting to discuss the unrest in Jerusalem, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported.
According to the communique, the Palestinian leader is calling for international intervention to stop “Israeli violations” in Jerusalem, and alleged “attacks” by “settlers” at the al-Aqsa Mosque.
Abbas’s spokesman said the PA would ask the UN to prevent further building over the Green Line, amid reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved 1,000 new units in East Jerusalem Monday.
Earlier Monday, Abbas said news of the planned 1,000 new homes would spur Ramallah to continue its drive for statehood.
“These developments push us to decide and turn to international agencies and the [UN] Security Council as soon as possible,” Abbas said in a statement.
“This announcement amounts to evidence of an intent to further commit crimes defined by and punishable under international law,” Saeb Erekat, a top aide to Abbas and former chief peace negotiator, said in a release from his office.
Abbas sent an urgent message to the United States Sunday, asking the administration to stop “Israeli escalations” in East Jerusalem.
According to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, Abbas emphasized what he described as “incursions by extremist settlers” into the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. He warned that Israeli actions around holy sites would lead to a dangerous and uncontrollable “explosion.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Monday’s opening of the Knesset winter session defended Israel’s right to build in Jerusalem and criticized the Palestinians for making unreasonable demands for peace.
As several MKs from Arab and left-wing parties interrupted his speech, Netanyahu plowed ahead, declaring that Israel has the same right to build in Jerusalem as other nations do in their own capital cities, and that there was a wide consensus in Israel to continue building throughout the city, as every government has done since Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 war.
“There is wide agreement among the public that Israel has the full right to build the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem,” the prime minister said. “Every Israeli government in the last 50 years did that, and it is also clear to the Palestinians that those places will stay under Israeli control in any mutual agreement.”
“The French build in Paris, the English build in London, the Israelis build in Jerusalem. Should we tell Jews not to live in Jerusalem because it will stir things up?” Netanyahu asked.
“Israelis pray for ‘next year in the rebuilt Jerusalem,'” he continued. “And you tell us not to build in Jerusalem? We are building, just like we built since the start of the state. On that there needs to be a clear agreement.”
He added: “Building is the natural answer to those who want to remove us from our land. They want death and we are building life.”
“The violence against us is not an outcome of the building in Jerusalem,” he said. “Terror comes from our enemies’ desire that we shouldn’t be here at all, in no place and in no part of Jerusalem. Not in Tel Aviv, or Haifa. Since the dawn of Zionism, construction has been the natural and crushing answer to those are harassing our existence and want to uproot us from our land. They want death, and we build here for life.”
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