Lebanese officials have always admitted that illegal crossings on the border with Syria have been used by smugglers, but never succeeded to put an end to it, a negligence that has had devastating consequences on the country’s security and economy.
An announcement made recently by Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil that there were more than 124 illegal border crossings on the Lebanese-Syrian border, has raised question marks on the parties turning a blind eye to smuggling.
Military sources in Beirut said on Thursday that the border’s 260-kilometer-length makes it difficult for security apparatuses to control it.
The sources said, however, that that security control on the illegal border crossings has improved since the Lebanese Army launched its Fajr al-Joroud battle against ISIS and other militants two years ago.
“Today, we mainly rely on observation towers, checkpoints, ambushes and patrols to control the border. Deploying army personnel along the entire boundary is impossible because of limited potentials,” the sources said.
Wadi Khaled Mayor Noureddine al-Ahmad told Asharq Al-Awsat that the 18-kilometer border, which the northern town shares with Syria, is now fully under tight surveillance, after all illegal crossings were closed and security measures were imposed by both Lebanese and Syrian authorities.
The smuggling of goods through illegal border crossings inflicts on Lebanon losses of around $600 million each year.
The Lebanese authorities have decided to control the crossings during recent discussions on the country’s draft state budget, and secure the flow of money to the Treasury with an aim to reduce Lebanon’s deficit.