BEIRUT — Lebanese Forces leader Samer Geagea on Wednesday criticized the creation of a new Hamas fighting unit in Lebanon, saying the newly announced force "undermines Lebanon's sovereignty."
At war with Israel since its attack on Oct. 7, Hamas, allied with Hezbollah, now has a strong presence in Lebanon, where some of its leaders often make announcements at press conferences.
In a post on X, Geagea said that Hamas's announcement demonstrates its "submission" to Hezbollah, which has maintained a front against Israel in southern Lebanon since Oct. 8.
"This statement is unacceptable in both form and substance. It undermines Lebanon's sovereignty and attempts to damage relations between the Lebanese and Palestinians," Geagea said.
"It has been proven that Hamas and related organizations in Lebanon are subject to Hezbollah and its decisions; it is impossible for them to carry out any military maneuvers without Hezbollah's agreement. It's even Hezbollah that asks them to fire the rockets according to its military considerations," the head of the LF criticized.
He also explained that "Hamas cannot issue such a statement unless Hezbollah has actually signed it."
Hezbollah, "once again, is not complying with the decisions it has adopted, from the national dialogue to resolution 1701". This UN resolution put an end to the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, and provides for a major deployment of the Lebanese army in an area controlled by UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon).
Charge against the government
Geagea's criticism was not limited to Hamas and Hezbollah. The LF leader also deplored the fact that the Lebanese authorities, "in particular the [caretaker] Prime Minister [Najib Mikati], the [caretaker] Minister of Defense [Maurice Slim], and the [caretaker] Interior [minister Bassam Mawlawi]," had not taken "a firm stance" in the face of Hamas's announcement.
Mikati said in response to a question at a press briefing recently that Hamas's statement "is totally rejected, and we will not accept it under any circumstances. But the people involved clarified today that the intention was not military."
The announcement of the creation of the "al-Aqsa Flood Youth" had already caused an uproar on the Lebanese political scene. The leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, a Hezbollah ally, said he "categorically rejects the creation of this unit by Hamas. We believe that any armed action from Lebanon is an attack on national sovereignty," he wrote on his X account, denouncing the weakening of Lebanon in favor of a "Hamas land" in the South.
As for Kataeb leader Sami Gemayel, he felt that "the al-Aqsa Youth unit (should be created) in Palestine, not in Lebanon, nor from Lebanon."
Faced with the outcry, Hamas's representative in Lebanon, Ahmad Abdel Hadi, attempted to rectify the situation on Tuesday. He said it was not a military unit aimed at recruiting young people to take part in "armed resistance." "It's a popular framework aimed solely at mentoring young Palestinians, many of whom wanted to join Hamas after Oct. 7, and taking advantage of their scientific and artistic skills," he said.