Lebanese journalist Ali Shabaan was killed by Syrian fire
Beirut – George Shahin
Informed sources have informed Arabstoday of new details surrounding the death of al-Jadeed cameraman Ali Shaaban, who was killed on Monday by Syrian fire on the Syrian-Lebanese border in northeastern
Sources said the Lebanese televison crew might have been victims of a planned ambush as they were members of a media institution that openly stood by the Syrian opposition and had been previously accused of complicity against the Syrian army. Al-Jadeed was reportedly banned earlier from entering Syria to cover the government's bloody crackdown on the uprising.
The implications resonate with al-Jadeed owner Tahsin Khayat's claims that his station had received threats from the Syrian regime. He said he was opposed to a Syrian investigation into the attack, as there was no hope for a transparent probe under the current government.
Sources told Arabstoday that the attacked team was being assisted by Mohamed Dergham, a member of the Arab Socialist Baath Party, loyal to the Syrian regime. Dergham was allegedly their guide in the region as he knew the area well and could take them to the closest point to the border without being exposed to danger.
The sources also said that Khaled Khreis, an al-Jadeed correspondent, did not think he would be exposed to fire before receiving an alert to flee the area, adding that the team was targetted with bursts of gunfire for two hours although there had been no previous engagement in the area. The claims add to the likelihood of the ambush being premeditated.
Khaled Khreis told Arabstoday that when the forces opened fire, the guide, Dergham, was not present.
MP Khaled al-Daher told Arabstoday: “Where are the foreign and defence ministers who are always defending the Syrian regime?” He also attacked the Lebanese government for saying that it would stand by the Syrian administration.
For his part, MP Suleiman Frangieh called for a serious investigation to reveal the truth behind this assault. Frangieh, who is known for his excellent relationship with the Syrian regime said in a statement on Monday evening: “We were shocked by the killing of the al-Jadeed journalist,” adding: “We very strongly condemn this crime, we call for a serious investigation into its details and circumstances, especially in light of the ambiguity surrounding the security in this region since the breakout of the Syrian crisis.”
The press council of the Christian Kataeb Party, that belongs to March 14 Forces political alliance, which is reputedly anti-Damascus, in a statement on Monday dubbed the incident "a bloody message". It also urged the Lebanese government to follow up on it until the truth was revealed.
Lebanese armed outfit Hezbollah expressed its "deep sorrow" for the attack and condemned assaults against journalists.
The Arab Union of Photographers also condemned the attack while urging all sides to respect journalists while performing their duty.
Ali Shaaban was killed as his team's car was exposed to fire from the Syrian side while they were in Wadi Khaled, northeastern Lebanon.
Hussein Khreis said that Ali was inside the car during the shooting, but he did not confirm the identity of the attackers.
Shaaban had covered the July 2006 Lebanon conflict and the war of Nahr al-Bared in 2009, between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army.