Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Hezbollah has intensified its security measures in the Dahieh district of Beirut, the party’s stronghold, after receiving information from residents that a number of booby-trapped cars had entered the area.
The Shi’ite militant group increased the number of its security officers in the area amid growing fears of new attacks over the last 48 hours. An Al-Qaeda affiliate active in Syria, the Al-Nusra Front, declared on Sunday that all Hezbollah areas were now “legitimate targets.”
Lebanese security force officials said Hezbollah’s fears were “justified.” Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told Asharq Al-Awsat that the threats were real and that “as long as the security situation continues to deteriorate, the situation in Lebanon will remain the same.”
“Not all rumors are necessarily true, but some of them must be taken seriously,” he added.
Charbel said: “Rumors are rife in Lebanon, not just in Dahieh,” adding “there is information about booby-trapped cars and the Lebanese security forces are investigating them.” He claimed that the security forces “stopped a number of suspects and foiled a number of attacks.”
Four car bomb attacks hit Lebanon in the previous month, the first targeted former Finance Minister Mohamad Chatah in central Beirut on December 27, and the other three were carried out by suicide attackers in Hezbollah strongholds.
Rumors were rife in Dahieh last weekend regarding the threat of “an armed raid by suicide attackers firing arbitrarily at civilians before detonating explosives to cause as many casualties as possible.”
The increase in security measures in Dahieh came in tandem with similar measures taken by official Lebanese security agencies.
Lebanese Army units and internal security forces carried out searches of cars entering the Dahieh, causing long queues at the checkpoints. However, residents no longer complain about these measures because they “reduce the danger,” one resident, 46-year-old Abu Yasser, told Asharq Al-Awsat.
As a result of the threats, the Dahieh district has often looked almost deserted in recent days, with some streets completely shut for traffic at prayer times. Barriers were placed at the entrances of some buildings and health centers belonging to Hezbollah. Other barriers were placed to stop vehicles parking in the area.
Meanwhile, in the Bir Al-Abed district next to Haret Hraik, the local authority has started to dig the main road and plant trees to reduce the width of the road. The trees were added to other obstacles placed previously to stop cars parking near shops lining the road.
Precautionary measures were not limited to security agencies. Members of the public and business owners also took measures to stop cars parking in front of their businesses. Some placed sand bags in front of their shops to reduce blast damage in the case of an attack.