Hezbollah MP Ali Meqdad on Saturday criticized Patriarch Beshara Rai, the head of Lebanon’s Maronite Church, for his visit to Israel, saying his efforts to bring back “Israeli agents” living in Israel was unacceptable.
The church leader defied warnings from Hezbollah by accompanying Pope Francis on his visit to Israel last week. He returned to Lebanon on Saturday.
Branded as traitors in Lebanon, former South Lebanon Army soldiers and their relatives fear to return to their country and want Rai to intercede on their behalf in Beirut.
“There is an issue that really irked me. Some people went to occupied Palestine to convince [Israeli] agents who withdrew with the Israeli enemy in 2000 to come back to Lebanon, and their response was that they have become Israeli citizens now and do not want either the Lebanese or Arab identity,” said Meqdad according to a report in the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper.
“The resistance was very careful after liberation and it did not take revenge or hold any of the agents or their families accountable but left things up to the judiciary,” he said.
“We tell those who are preparing a draft law or a proposal to bring back those agents who betrayed the country...
We do not want Israeli agents among us here in Lebanon.”
Around 10,000 Maronites live in Israel, including 2,000 former SLA men and their families, who fled there during the IDF’s withdrawal from Lebanon.
“We suffered enough from them during the occupation. They are not even proud of their Lebanese citizenship and we are not proud to call them Lebanese,” added Meqdad.
Lebanon’s security forces arrested a suspect a couple weeks ago who confessed to working with regional intelligence agencies in a plot to assassinate Rai, security sources told the Lebanese newspaper on Wednesday.
Reuters contributed to this report.