Agriculture Minister Abbas Hajj Hassan affirmed Saturday that “Lebanon’s right to defend its land is legitimized by United Nations laws,” and that these laws “condemn all forms of occupation, and support peoples in liberating their land.”
Hajj Hassan’s words came during his patronage of a ceremony held in honor of the Chief Commander of the International Mission operating in south Lebanon (UNIFIL), Major General Stefano Del Col, in the town of Maaraka, which was attended by MP Enaya Ezzeddine, Mayor of Tyre Mohammad Jaffal, Head of the Union of Municipalities of Tyre Hassan Dbouq, and several senior officials from the region.
The Minister thanked the dignitaries and citizens of the town of Maaraka “for honoring the UNIFIL Chief, a man who worked hard to help the people of the border areas with occupied Palestine, and who witnessed thousands of Israeli violations by land, sea and air.”
“Thank you for your efforts and your belief that rights are the balance of justice,” Hajj Hassan said, addressing General Del Col. He added, “No power in the world can take away the right of a people to their land, sea and sky. As you leave our homeland, we entrust you with a message to the whole world and to the United Nations…We are the owners of a right guaranteed by international law and the Bill of Human Rights: our sacred right to defend our land and what is left of it under Israeli occupation by all means.”
In turn, Del Col thanked Minister Hajj Hassan and the attendees for this special ceremony, saying” I am honored to join you today, and thank you for holding this ceremony in the town of Maaraka, a place that occupies a special place in my heart.”
He added: “As you know, my first experience as a peacekeeper with UNIFIL was in the town of Maaraka in 2007. I witnessed the hospitality of the people in this dear region of Lebanon, although at that time, this place looked completely different and we slept in tents for six months, you welcomed us into your homes.”
“My experience here has prompted me to come back time and time again whenever the opportunity would arise. I am honored to have one of the gardens named after me, thank you. Now it’s time to say goodbye, I will leave the town of Maaraka and the South…but I will carry Lebanon in my heart wherever I go and cherish every memory of my experience here,” Del Col maintained.
“Despite the difficult conditions that Lebanon is going through, you have always carried and still feel with the burdens of others…Two weeks ago, a council was organized to recite verses from the Holy Quran for the souls of flood victims in Malaysia and in solidarity with those who were displaced as a result of this natural disaster. This initiative had an impact not only on the members of the Malaysian battalion, but on everyone in the UNIFIL mission,” Del Col asserted.
“The Lebanon that I experienced in the past is different from the Lebanon of the present. During the past years, Lebanon witnessed a social and economic crisis and the repercussions of a major pandemic. From the first moment of the epidemic outbreak, I issued directives to the mission’s personnel to put all our capabilities at the disposal of the local authorities, and UNIFIL played a modest and important role at the same time, through our limited resources, in supporting civilians during this crisis. We will continue to work wherever needed because we are partners of the sons of Maaraka and they are our partners in UNIFIL…Thank you for this gathering and for your partnership, and thank you very much for your friendship,” concluded the UNIFIL Chief.