A senior US military general landed in Beirut Wednesday to reaffirm Washington’s backing for Lebanon. At the same time, a group of Hezbollah supporters burned flags and pictures of the United States and its ambassador to Lebanon.
CENTCOM Commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie met with Lebanon’s top officials and “reaffirmed the importance of preserving Lebanon’s security, stability, and sovereignty,” a statement from the US Embassy in Beirut said.
It added that McKenzie “underscored the importance of the strong partnership between the United States and the Lebanese Armed Forces.”
US aid for the Lebanese army has come under scrutiny from some US officials and policymakers claiming that Hezbollah influences the military decisions. Lebanese officials and the army have rejected these claims.
McKenzie has voiced his conviction of the need to continue supporting the Lebanese army, a vital partner in the international fight against terrorism.
As McKenzie arrived, supporters of the Iran-backed Hezbollah blocked a road near the Beirut airport and praised the bombers of the 1983 attack on the US Marines barracks in Beirut.
بالفيديو: "الموت لأميركا" عند مدخل المطار pic.twitter.com/6yOjM2wBUn— Al-Hadeel- الهديل (@AlHadeelMag) July 8, 2020
One supporter told Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV that he came to “praise” the terrorists that bombed the Marine barracks.
Photos of Imad Mughniyeh, a senior Hezbollah commander assassinated in 2008, and flags of Hezbollah were raised during the demonstration that saw Lebanese army soldiers push back the Hezbollah supporters to reopen the blocked road.
Photographs of US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea were torched alongside portraits of US President Donald Trump and the US and Israeli flags.
Tensions have escalated in recent weeks after a south Lebanon judge issued an order banning Shea from being interviewed by local media outlets.
The Lebanese government apologized, and Shea said the “page has been turned” on the incident.
However, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah attacked Shea in a televised speech on Tuesday.
Nasrallah also criticized the Lebanese government for what he said was remaining silent over an interview where Shea lambasted the group for destabilizing Lebanon.