What Happens When a Hezbollah Weapons Truck Overturns in The Middle of a Christian Town?

Al- Kahaleh, a Christian town about 12 kilometers southeast of Beirut, is crossed by Route 30. Route 30 is a major route connecting Beirut in the west to the Bekaa Valley and the Syrian-Masnaa border crossing in the east (In the village of Shtura, route 30 separates north to the Bekaa Valley and east to Al-Masna).

The sharp bend in Route 30, near St. Antoine’s Church in the heart of Kahaleh, apparently does not like Hezbollah vehicles passing through it back and forth on their way to or from the Bekaa, just as the Christian residents of the town, putting it mildly, do not like Hezbollah operating and being present in their town.

The Lebanese Traffic Control Room reported that a truck overturned on the sharp bend in the afternoon of Wednesday, August 9, 2023. The truck belonged to Hezbollah and was escorted by vehicles guarded by armed Hezbollah members. The truck overturned when the convoy was traveling from the Bekaa Valley to Beirut.

Above: The overturned truck

Video of the overturned truck:

This was no ordinary traffic accident, as it involved a Hezbollah truck transporting crates carrying weapons. It is not uncommon for Hezbollah to transport trucks filled with military equipment and weapons throughout Lebanon, particularly on Route 30. Route 30 serves as the western terminus of the Iranian arms corridor in Lebanon. It is the main route used to carry equipment and weapons from Hezbollah’s “logistics center” in the Bekaa Valley.

However, the accident’s geographical position in a Christian area hostile to Hezbollah resulted in an unprecedented escalation that developed into exchanges of fire between Hezbollah operatives and Christian operatives of the Lebanese Forces (Samir Geagea). Two people were killed as a result of this exchange of fire. One of them was a Hezbollah operative who was a passenger in the convoy.

Above: The location of the accident at the sharp bend near St. Antoine’s Church

Locals insisted on blocking the road as soon as the vehicle overturned, preventing the truck from being lifted and evacuated until security authorities arrived to deal with the “suspicious cargo” on the truck. As a result of the antagonism and high tension, gunfights erupted, killing a Christian named Fadi al-Bajani, 64, as well as a local citizen and Hezbollah operative named Ahmad Ali Qasat.

Residents crowding around the overturned truck:

Exchange of fire at the scene:

Above: The Hezbollah operative killed.

The Lebanese army dispatched forces to the location and held talks with locals to evacuate the vehicle and reopen the road, which had been effectively blocked in both directions. The Lebanese army even started shifting some of the load of sealed wooden crates to its trucks until the route was cleared at about 1:30 a.m. (August 10).

Truck evacuation attempt:

Between Christians who support Samir Geagea’s Lebanese troops and Hezbollah, tensions and long-standing antagonism reign. This tension periodically leads to violent clashes between the parties, as happened in October 2021 in Beirut’s Al Tayyoune neighborhood when Samir Geagea’s operatives killed several Hezbollah operatives and supporters. In the internal Lebanese arena, Hezbollah’s worst nemesis is the Lebanese forces, and Nasrallah refers to Samir Geagea as “the local Satan” and a “Zionist collaborator.”

This high level of tension has recently been heightened by the kidnapping and killing of another Lebanese Forces operative, Elias al-Hetzroni, from the southern Lebanon village of Ein Abel.  The accusing finger of the Lebanese Forces spokesmen is clearly pointed…

Appendix – Responses to the incident:

Hezbollah’s response:

At night, Hezbollah published an announcement blaming “armed militiamen in the area” for opening fire on its operatives, whose mission was to protect the crashed truck and even killing one of them. “A Hezbollah truck overturned in the Kahaleh area while traveling from the Bekaa Valley to Beirut.” While the brothers involved in the transfer called for assistance and lifted the truck off the road so it could continue on its trip to its destination, a group of armed men from the local militias arrived and attacked the truck’s members in an attempt to seize control of the truck.” Hezbollah accused the militants of “throwing stones first, then shooting and wounding one who was defending the truck. He was taken in critical condition to hospital, where he later died as a martyr.” “There was an exchange of fire with the aggressive militants, and in the meantime, a Lebanese army force intervened and prevented the militants from approaching the truck or taking control of it.” Hezbollah, according to the release, is continuing its contacts to “deal with the existing problem.”

Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s response: 

The Prime Minister’s Communications office said that Mikati was monitoring the incident and had spoken with the army commander, General Joseph Aoun, regarding the circumstances. Mikati endeavored to hasten existing inquiries into the entire scope of what occurred while taking the necessary steps to maintain control of the situation.

He urged everyone to remain rational and calm while waiting for the results of ongoing investigations, emphasizing that “the army continues its efforts to improve the situation and prevent negative development.”

The response of the Lebanese forces (Lebanese forces, Samir Geagea’s party) in the Aliyah area:

“Once again, the Lebanese are paying the price for security evasion and the spread of illegal weapons, and this time Kahaleh has become the scene of a show of force and direct fire at civilians who gathered after a truck carrying weapons overturned,” said the Lebanese forces (Lebanese forces – Samir Geagea’s party) in the Aliyah area. The armed escort fired straight at civilians, killing Fadi Yusuf al-Bajani, who sought to rescue the driver, from what appear to be armed operators.”

“The Lebanese forces in the Aliyah area urge the security forces, particularly the Lebanese army, to play their role by apprehending the shooters, detaining the truck, conducting the necessary investigations, and preventing any manifestation of militia evasion.” confirm that Kahaleh was not and will not be a target for uncontrollable weapons gangs and cross-border initiatives” (referring to Hezbollah’s arms corridor from Syria to Lebanon).

The Lebanese Army’s response:

On August 9, 2023, when a truck carrying ammunition derailed on a public road in Kahaleh, a conflict erupted between the truck escorts and the inhabitants, resulting in two fatalities, according to the official Lebanese army Twitter account. A military unit arrived on the site and intervened to defuse the situation; the cargo was moved to a military facility, and an investigation was launched under the supervision of the judiciary.

Comment – We are not shocked that the Lebanese army’s phrasing contains no connection between the incident and Hezbollah…

Celebrations in Al-Hermel (August 12) in honor of one of the Hezbollah operatives involved in the overturned truck incident in Al-Kahale (August 9). Shadi Nasser Al-Din from the village of Qasr was “detained for investigation” on suspicion of involvement in the shooting that killed a resident of Al-Kahale. (we recommend turning on the sound…)

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Tal Beeri

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