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Locals want Syrians evicted from Lebanese town after killing

Last Updated Nov 24, 2020 at 8:26 am EST

BEIRUT — Locals in a northern Lebanese town called on authorities Tuesday to evict all Syrians from the area a day after a Syrian citizen allegedly shot dead a local man in a personal dispute.

The announcement in the Christian mountain resort town of Bcharre came after a night of riots against Syrians in the town during which some homes of Syrians were reportedly torched and individuals were attacked in the streets. The Lebanese army said that as of Monday night, troops had begun conducting patrols in the town, adding the accused killer surrendered to security forces and an investigation had begun.

The army said the killing came amid a dispute between resident Joseph Tawk and a Syrian citizen who worked at a home near a plot of land owned by the victim. Officials only identified the Syrian with his initials, M K, and released no additional details on the dispute.

At some point, angry residents surrounded the town’s main government building Monday night demanding that security forces hand the Syrian citizen over to them.

After the killing, church bells tolled and some residents went down to the streets demanding that all Syrian citizens be evicted.

“All Syrians who are staying in the town illegally must leave immediately,” Bcharre Mayor Freddy Keyrouz said in a statement. He called on security forces to search the homes of Syrians in the town after it was reported the alleged shooter had a pistol.

Tensions are common in Lebanon between locals and Syrian refugees who have fled the war in their country. Lebanon at one point was hosting refugees equaling nearly a quarter of the country’s population of 5 million, burdening Lebanon’s crumbling infrastructure.

Tensions between Lebanese and Syrians also dates back to the days when Syria dominated its smaller neighbour for almost three decades with thousands of troops stationed in Lebanon. They withdrew in 2005 following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which sparked massive anti-Syrian protests.

A statement read in Bcharre by community members and aired on local TV stations called on local authorities to immediately “evacuate all Syrians who are currently residing in Bcharre whether they are workers, settlers or families until a mechanism is reached” on how to host Syrian workers in the town.

Many Syrians fled the town overnight and others were forced to leave by local residents, state-run National News Agency said.

The Associated Press