Over the last few days, the ISF’s elite forces of Al-Fouhoud have been noticeable in certain areas in Lebanon. A checkpoint on the highway leading to Casino Du Liban towards Beirut has recently stopped vans and buses carrying protesters to the capital.
Similar buses, amounting to dozens as reported by LBCI TV, were stopped at the same time by the ISF in Dahr al-Baydar, and several arrests were made.
A few days ago, some protesters reportedly clashed with the security forces outside of a hospital in Beirut, resulting in injuries among both the security forces and the protesters.
A local reporter stated that Al-Fouhoud forces were in the scene, impeding entrance to the hospital.
The new presence of Al-Fouhoud elite forces in the streets of Lebanon is considered a “bad sign” by many people who have been to protests in previous years.
Al-Fouhoud (The Panthers) are the highly-trained elite unit of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces. It was founded in 2007 after the battle between the armed forces and Fateh al-Islam in the Palestinian camp of Nahr El-Bared.
The reason why the ISF decided to deploy them now is not known, only assumed due to the escalating violence in the protests of Beirut.
However, as reported by Al-Jazeera this week, President Aoun met with the chiefs of the military and security agencies to work out a plan to stop “violent groups” that “security services have detailed information on” while protecting property and peaceful protesters.
That came after President Aoun headed a meeting with then-caretaker interior and defense ministers, and the chiefs of the military and security agencies to address the violence.
Also according to Al-Jazeera’s government source, participants of that meeting “accused infiltrators of attacking security forces and vandalizing property.” They reportedly discussed “security measures to protect peaceful protesters.”
That could explain the recent involvement this week of the Fouhoud forces with checkpoints and inspections of buses and vans carrying protesters to Beirut.
Since last week, and further now with the newly formed controversial Cabinet, people are becoming angrier at the worsening conditions and at their demands of three months being ignored.
The formation of the new government has indeed incited more anger. People took to the streets around the Parliament, protesting, and some burning pictures of Prime Minister Hassan Diab.
Some protesters have unleashed their anger by throwing rocks at the security forces, who responded with water cannons and warned the protesters to stop trying to cross the barbed wire, according to LBC.
In any case, whether they are looking for “violent groups” that “security services have detailed information on” or to impose order on protesters, Al-Fouhoud forces are deemed the most redoubtable brigade in the ISF.
Their check-points and arrests are some of the many crackdowns the ISF has been conducting in recent days, such as the confiscating of shops that sell fireworks in Tripoli, and impeding protesters from other regions to join their fellows in Beirut.