Press Release -- World Lebanese Organization (WLO) -- August 20, 1997

The World Lebanese Organization on South Lebanon's Escalation: A Syro-Islamist Aggression Aiming at Ethnic Cleansing The Last Free Christian Enclave in Lebanon

The Executive Committee of the World Lebanese Organization (WLO) issued the following press release about the latest developments in south Lebanon. The World Lebanese Organization (WLO), which opposes the Syrian occupation and Islamist domination of Lebanon, considers the latest escalation of violence in south Lebanon to be a result of a decision by Damascus and Tehran to systematically ethnic cleanse the last free Christian enclave in Lebanon.

The enclave of Jezzine, inhabited by tens of thousands of native Lebanese Christians, still escapes the Syrian occupation and HizbAllah's influence. It is defended, since 1985, by the South Lebanon Army (SLA), a local patriotic force whose aim is to defend the land and freedom from escalating threats surrounding us. Although the SLA is supported by Israel in the so-called security zone, the Israeli Army is not present in Jezzine, and therefore is the only zone in Lebanon which is not controlled or occupied by foreign forces, and protected by its local self defense forces.

Since 1985, HizbAllah, other fundamentalist factions, and pro-Syrian militias have shelled the area, kidnaped, tortured and assassinated many of its residents. After 1990, and the Syrian invasion of the Christian central areas in Beirut, HizbAllah increased its terrorist attacks against the people of south Lebanon and the Jezzine area. Since 1996, the civilian population of the city of Jezzine and the surrounding villages are the targets of escalating bombardments and roadside explosions. Over the past few months, many children were wounded and killed, a daughter and her father two weeks ago, an orphanage last week.

On August 18, 1997, the Islamist organization blew up a civilian car with a side road bomb, killing two Christian teenagers, a brother and a sister, and wounding the third remaining brother in the Nasr family. The massacre of the young Christians sent waves of shocks and emotions within the Christian community that has been encircled and targeted by HizbAllah for years.

To most people of Jezzine and the security zone, the Nasr family is a symbol of "martyrdom." In 1977, the father was killed in the massacre of the village of Aishiye with one of his children. His brother Nabil was killed in Kfar-Rouman. His other brother Maroun was killed in an ambush in Birket Jabbour. Another brother, Assaad was also killed by Hizbollah. Maroun's son was killed by Hizbollah shell as well. And this week the children of Assaad Nasr were attacked with a roadside bomb and two died. Jean (16 years) on the spot, and Rima (14 years) was burned alive.

The immediate and natural reaction by the people of Jezzine was anger. As in many other societies, including the most democratic ones in the world, the defense forces of the city retaliated against the aggressors by shelling their positions with the unfortunately result of collateral civilian deaths. However, while we completely disapprove any casualty among innocent people on any side, and we stand by the side of civilians who suffer, responsibility for any civilian casualties must be accepted by HizbAllah, and those who support them, who has publically stated their intentions to annihilate the Christian community of south Lebanon.

The Christians of Jezzine are paying the price of the persecuted Christians of Lebanon, the Middle East, and ultimately all Christians world wide. Persecution in Lebanon has a very bold dimension. HizbAllah and Syria are attempting to ethnic cleanse the last free enclave of the Christian community, by all means. World public opinion, and the American people in particular, which sent strong messages of solidarity with the Christians suffering worldwide, should now act in order to save the thousands of Christians encircled in Jezzine.

We particularly call on the US Congress, who is about to vote an anti-persecution legislation, and the White House, who has formed an advisory board on persecution worldwide, to act, and act swiftly. We call on the US government, and its European allies to intervene in south Lebanon and save its Christian community, in much the same way they did in Bosnia to save its Muslim community. We also address the Western media which, willingly or indirectly, is taking the side of the Islamist terrorists, by showing pictures of the civilian casualties in the Syrian-controlled areas, and by not showing the bodies of the Christian victims in Jezzine. Is Christian blood cheaper than other blood? We urge those men and women in the media to be fair and report all sides, particularly the underdogs, i.e., the abandoned, persecuted, and encircled Christians of south Lebanon.

For information and contact: Pierre Elias, New York, WLO@CMEP.COM

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