BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Druze Spiritual Council will hold an emergency session Friday to draw up a response to the killing of 20 community members in northwest Syria by an Al-Qaeda affiliate, a massacre which sparked widespread condemnation.
Speaking to The Daily Star Thursday, ministerial sources from the Progressive Socialist Party said MP Walid Jumblatt would announce the outcome of the meeting which will convene in the Druze Sect House in Verdun in the afternoon.
The Nusra Front killed at least 20 Druze civilians in the village of Qalb Lozeh Wednesday, in the Jabal al-Summaq region of the northwest province of Idlib.
The attack was the deadliest yet to target the sect, which has been split between supporters and opponents of the regime since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011.
Jumblatt, Lebanon’s most influential Druze leader, has warned against incitement.
“Any inciting rhetoric will not be beneficial, and you should remember that Bashar Assad’s policies pushed Syria into this chaos,” he wrote on Twitter.
Jumblatt, who backs the Syrian opposition, also called for reconciliation between the Druze and Sunnis of the southern Deraa province.
In August, Druze villagers from the southern province of Swaida fought deadly clashes with Nusra-backed Bedouins from nearby Deraa.
Jumblatt received phone calls condemning the massacre from Speaker Nabih Berri, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, former Prime Minister Fouad Sinora and Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian.
The PSP said in a statement late Wednesday that contacts Jumblatt has made with Syrian opposition groups and regional powers have led to joint efforts to protect residents of the Druze villages in Idlib, who it said have supported the Syrian revolution from the start.
The statement also said that reports that the residents of Qalb Lozeh were slaughtered by Nusra were baseless. It alleged that the killings were part of a dispute between people from the village and Nusra militants, who tried to enter the house of a man they considered pro-regime. The incident then degenerated into violence.
Berri condemned Wednesday’s killings in a phone call to Druze Spiritual leader Sheikh Naim Hasan and a series of Lebanese Druze figures including Jumblatt, MP Talal Arslan, former Minister Wi’am Wahhab, and former MP Faisal Dawoud.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam said that Qalb Lozeh’s “savage crime” represented “blatant aggression against a major component of the brotherly Syrian people, and showed once again the savagery of the forces of darkness.”
Hariri also condemned the Qalb Lozeh massacre. “The worst [situation] the Syrian revolution could fall into, is [for rebels] to volunteer in combat missions that have no goal but to offer free services to the Bashar Assad regime,” he said in a statement.
“The incidents that took place in the village of Qalb Lozeh in Idlib province are a serious example of the outrageous behavior that harms the Syrians, their revolution and their victories, and gives the regime and its followers an opportunity to exploit the mistakes of part of the opposition.”
Hariri called on members of the Druze community “to follow the noble patriotic stance” of Jumblatt, “who has been warning for years against the attempts of the Syrian regime to draw sects and communities into its senseless wars, using them as human shields to defend its political entity.”
Hezbollah also strongly condemned the “savage crime” committed by Nusra Front “gangs.”
“Patience and unity are required more than ever before in this difficult time, in the face of projects to instigate divisions between people of the same country,” read a statement released by the party.
“Was it expected that these terrorist, deviant groups, who have links with the enemies of the nation, will have an attitude different than this one, which stems from a doctrine based on killing and bloodshed?”
Sheikh Hasan condemned the killings in Idlib, calling for “awareness and responsibility to avoid the repetition of such incidents,” and said the Druze should not to respond to attempts at incitement.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea also denounced the killings.
“The regional states supporting the Syrian opposition should intervene to set limits for groups taking such action,” he said.
But Wahhab, an ally of Assad, urged members of the community in Syria to create an armed force to defend themselves.
“[The Druze in Syria] are ready to defeat the terrorists, but what they lack is arms. Lebanon’s Druze are ready to help, we are ready to form an army of 200,000 fighters to defend the Druze,” Wahhab said in a televised speech, urging Assad to provide arms to the community.
He also threatened the Nusra Front and its allies who have attacked the Druze in Syria.
“The people of Deraa are our brothers; my problem is with the criminal foreigners who came to Syria. Anyone who deals with the Nusra Front is unwelcome in Lebanon ... Whoever kills us in Idlib, we will kill him in Lebanon. We will not allow any Nusra Front member to stay.”