Beirut – The Lebanese army received a shipment of American weapons on Sunday, an embassy official told AFP, to help fight jihadists who have staged incursions from Syria.
“The Lebanese army received 72 M198 power packs (howitzers) and more than 25 million artillery, mortar and rifle ammunition,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
An AFP photographer at the port of Beirut also saw several Humvees, howitzers, ammunition containers and other military vehicles arrive.
In a statement, the US Embassy said the aid amounted to $25 million, adding that the 26 million rounds included light, medium and heavy artillery rounds.
“Support for (the Lebanese army) remains a top priority for the United States. The recent attacks on the Lebanese army only strengthen American resolve to stand in solidarity with the Lebanese people in confronting these threats,” the embassy said.
He added: “The United States is supplying high-end weapons to (the Lebanese army) to help the brave Lebanese soldiers in their confrontation with the terrorists.”
In recent months, the Lebanese army has fought several battles against jihadists pouring in from across the troubled border with Syria.
The deadliest battle took place last August in the border town of Arsal.
The jihadists withdrew after a deal brokered by Lebanese Sunni clerics, but they took more than two dozen military and police hostages with them.
Four of the hostages have since been executed and efforts to free the other 25 appear to have completely stalled.
In 2014, Lebanon was the fifth largest recipient of US foreign military aid, the embassy said.
“In 2014 alone, the United States provided more than $100 million to (the Lebanese army), adding to the billion dollars in assistance provided…since 2006,” the statement said.
The civil war raging in Syria, which in nearly four years has claimed more than 210,000 lives, has had a major security, economic and humanitarian impact on Lebanon.
The tiny Mediterranean country was militarily and politically dominated by Syria for nearly 30 years until 2005.
It remains divided on the conflict in Syria, with Shia Hezbollah and its allies backing President Bashar al-Assad, and the Sunni-led opposition backing the revolt.