Middle East Intelligence Bulletin
Jointly published by the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon and the Middle East Forum
  Vol. 2   No. 4

April 2000 


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CFIL Launches Attacks Against Syrian Workers

A series of terrorist attacks against Syrian civilian workers in Lebanon over the last month has drawn attention to a previously unknown group calling itself the Citizens for a Free and Independent Lebanon (CFIL).

   
Syrian workers
Syrian workers in Lebanon have been the target of several CFIL attacks
The campaign began during the first week of April with two dynamite attacks against Akaidia, a shantytown housing 1,500 Syrian workers on the southern outskirts of Sidon. Both attacks reportedly involved a red car of unidentified make.1 "The attack against the Syrian presence in Sidon on the 4th of April was just a warning" said a CFIL statement faxed to AFP. "We are against the presence of all the foreign troops in our country and we demand them to withdraw and get their citizens out of Lebanon. As we drove the Zionists from our land, we will fight the Syrians until the soldiers will leave Lebanon," it added.2

    CFIL launched two additional attacks against Syrian workers in Sidon and Zahrany on April 19 and 20, followed by a second statement, again faxed to AFP, demanding the departure of Syrian military and civilian personnel. "The continuation of our actions against the Syrians in Sidon and Zahrany on the 19th-20th of April was meant to make the Syrian occupants realize what expects them if they ignore our warnings," said the poorly-worded statement. "Our long heavy arm will get them wherever they are . . . we will burn the soil under their feet."3

    The attacks were preceded by a March 23 grenade attack on the office of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) in Dik al-Mehdi, North Metn for which no one has claimed responsibility.

    The emergence of CFIL coincides with a massive resurgence of protests against the Syrian occupation [see related story in this issue of MEIB] led by the Free National Current (FNC) of former Prime Minister Michel Aoun. However, a high-ranking FNC official told MEIB that Aoun is resolutely opposed to the use of violence against civilians of any nationality.

    Syria maintains 35,000 soldiers in Lebanon, in addition to nearly one million civilian workers, who are allowed to freely enter the country without visas or work permits. Collectively, the workers remit about $1.2 billion from Lebanon to Syria every year. Pro-Syrian Lebanese officials claim that Syrian workers fill a gap in the labor force because they work menial jobs that Lebanese workers shun. Many have criticized their presence, however, particularly since the the economic downturn over the last year, which has made their poorly-paid jobs more attractive to unemployed Lebanese.

    In response to the attacks, Damascus has ordered Syrian workers to leave a number of villages in south Lebanon.

  1 Al-Nahar (Beirut), 5 April 2000.
  2 AFP, 12 April 2000.
  3 AFP, 23 April 2000.

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