The kidnappers of the Lebanese army soldiers on the outskirts of Ersal do not seem to be in a rush. They continue to blackmail the Lebanese government and have their demands met. Money and medical and food supplies have allowed them to continue their occupation of the barren areas surrounding Ersal, while the government is unable to give any assurances or guarantees to the families of the abductees.
Six trucks carrying food and medical supplies entered Ersal yesterday and will likely end up in the hands of kidnappers, who continue to blackmail and manipulate the Lebanese government, as well as the families of the abductees. Yet, the kidnappers have not taken any positive steps toward releasing some or any of the soldiers.
In the latest maneuver, Qatari envoy Ahmed al-Khatib headed to Ersal yesterday to continue the negotiations with the army kidnappers and try to obtain a clear written list of their demands.
He led a convoy of six trucks loaded with food and medical supplies, on the pretext that it is being transferred to Syrian refugee camps in the outskirts of Ersal. While political and security sources have said that “the aid will only reach the displaced Syrians,” sources familiar with the negotiations confirmed that “the supplies will be smuggled to the kidnappers who occupy the outskirts of Ersal.” The sources added that “the transfer of materials to the barren areas in the last few days has been very easy.”
While the parties involved in the negotiations have remained discreet as to the source of funds, informed sources said that Qatar is the source of funding. Other sources said that the funds come through Lebanese sources, noting that it is ransom money demanded by the kidnappers in order not to slaughter a kidnapped soldier.
Al-Khatib reportedly left Ersal shortly before midnight heading to Beirut after meeting with representatives of al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), amid tight discretion about the progress of the negotiations. Until the night of October 30, the kidnappers had not handed over any written or oral list of their demands to the Lebanese authorities.
The Qatari envoy’s car, which has dark tinted glass, was stopped by an army intelligence patrol while cruising in the area of Tarik al-Jdideh on October 31. His car was also being monitored by a patrol belonging to another security apparatus, which resulted in an altercation between members of the two patrols. Al-Khatib was held for about eight hours and was released after mediation by political and security figures.
Al-Akhbar also learned that there are currently two channels of negotiation between the government and the army hijackers, one through the Director General of General Security Major General Abbas Ibrahim, and another through Health Minister Wael Abu Faour. According to available information, Faour – at one stage of the negotiations – headed to Ersal, where he met with figures who are in contact with the kidnappers, and he maintains communication with Sheikh Mustafa Hujairi (Abu Taqiyi).
Meanwhile, the families of the kidnapped soldiers decided to postpone the protests they had threatened to hold, after meeting yesterday with Prime Minister Tammam Salam, who briefed them on the course of the negotiations “over the duration of three months.”
Talal Taleb, the father of kidnapped soldier Mohammed Taleb, said on behalf of the families, “We are waiting for the return of the Qatari envoy from Ersal, and the prime minister has not given us any assurances or guarantees.”
Source: Al-Akhbar English