The Exiled Shalash

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Lebanon Update 5

Australia Closes Its Embassy:

The Australian embassy in Beirut has been closed and according to the Age, some 25,000 Australians are feared to be trapped in Lebanon as the country continues to suffer from the sins of Hizbollah and the agression of the IDF.

The UN:

The most useless international organization, U.N. is to convene on Friday to discuss the ongoing crisis. This came after pleas from the Lebanese government which feels trapped in the middle of a crisis it did not know anything about prior to its occurance.


The Lebanese government admits it does not control Hizbollah. Oh the shame!

Three Killed and 29 Injured:

al-Jazeera is reporting that the airport has been bombed once more this morning. Also the bombing of the southern suburb of Beirut has resulted in three deaths and 29 injuries. I cannot confirm this, all al-Jazeera news have to be confirmed.

NYTimes Article:

The New York Times
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July 14, 2006

Violence Opens Old Wounds From Lebanon’s Past

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Friday, July 14 — Lebanon found itself virtually cut off from the world Thursday as the main highway linking Beirut and Damascus, Syria, the last major artery left intact after attacks by Israeli warplanes, was bombed late Thursday night.

With Israeli warships patrolling Lebanon’s shores and the runways at Rafik Hariri International Airport bombed Thursday and other parts bombed early Friday, the country was fully blockaded.

As the roar of warplanes and the occasional boom of missiles rattled nerves, many Lebanese began re-enacting the rituals learned during 15 years of civil war. They hoarded canned foods, spare batteries and candles. Some prepared bomb shelters and others hunkered down for a protracted siege.

The Lebanese cabinet met Thursday, called for “national unity” and condemned the Israeli assault, demanding that the “international community help secure a cease-fire.”

The attack strained the fragile ties binding Lebanon, whose population of Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Christians and Druse, had begun recovering from the wounds of civil war. Lebanese reactions varied, in many cases along sectarian lines.

In Beirut’s Shiite-dominated southern suburbs, where residents handed out sweets to celebrate the seizures of the Israeli soldiers on Wednesday, residents supported Hezbollah, a Shiite group with close ties to Iran, and insisted that they were ready to sacrifice for the cause. Many pledged their allegiance to Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader. “If things did not escalate to this, nothing would ever be solved,” said Rania al-Faris as she waited for a bus.

But in many other parts of the city, many expressed indignation at having to pay for what they saw as a ruinous escapade. “I’m not anxious because I guess I am just used to war,” admitted Sirine Ahmad, 47, as she stocked up on supplies in the religiously mixed Hamra section. “But this time I feel bitterness, anger and rage because Hezbollah does not have the right to decide to take us back into war.”

The crisis has underscored the weakness of the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who for the past year has struggled to build legitimacy and focus the country inward, hoping to settle growing sectarian squabbles and improve the Lebanese economy.

Israel has long demanded that the Lebanese government disarm Hezbollah, in keeping with a United Nations resolution. But Hezbollah is a powerful force in Lebanon. Two members are part of the Lebanese cabinet, and Hezbollah effectively controls parts of southern Lebanon. Instead of outright confrontation with Hezbollah, Mr. Siniora has tried to goad the group into aligning its agenda with the government’s. For the past several months, he has held what he called a national dialogue to try to find a way to come to a settlement on Hezbollah’s weapons.

But Hezbollah’s attack, and Israel’s response, underline the tensions tearing at Lebanon — a consuming hatred of Israel, which occupied southern Lebanon for 18 years, gratitude to Hezbollah, which drove Israel out, and fear of being plunged into chaos again.

“You can bet that non-Shiites probably hate Hezbollah now,” said Amal Saad Ghorayeb, professor of political science at Lebanese American University and an expert on Hezbollah. “But those same people have also been reminded that Israel is the enemy.”

Timur Goksel, a lecturer at Lebanese American University and a former senior United Nations official in southern Lebanon, said: “The cost of this is high and will continue to get higher. But the highest cost in the end will be in explaining to the Lebanese why this incident occurred.”

Lebanese are also bracing for the economic toll of the fighting. The civil war ravaged Beirut and other parts of the country, but Lebanon invested tens of billions of dollars in a new downtown. Arab tourists, feeling unwelcome in Europe and the United States after the 9/11 attacks, have flocked to Beirut in recent years. Now they are fleeing.

Joseph Khouri, a cabdriver, stood before a scrum of Saudi tourists boarding buses bound for Damascus.

He was proud of Hezbollah’s strike against Israel, he said. But he also realized there would be a price. Tourism contributes up to $4 billion of Lebanon’s $23 billion gross domestic product, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. “Do all these people deserve this?” Mr. Khouri said as he helped load his clients’ bags on the bus. “If they wanted to get the kidnappers, why didn’t they just focus on the kidnappers, not the innocent people?”

The land border with Syria, the sole exit from the country, was backed up for miles by midday. Many Westerners, for whom Syrian visas have become much more difficult to get, were stranded in hotels.

“This is terrifying,” said Abdullah al-Sudairi, a Saudi tourist who cut short his vacation and boarded a bus to Damascus. “I mean it’s a resort, not a war zone.” Perhaps, he said, he would come back, but not for a while.

After the lessons of Lebanon’s past, this siege was an especially unnecessary one, some said. “I have never been as scared in my whole life as I am now,” Mona Karaoui, 24, said. “No one wants to resist against anyone. We just want to live a normal life after all these years of wars and death and misery.”

By nightfall, Beirut had grown quiet as the panic buying ended. Residents stayed home, bracing for worse news to come.

Nada Bakri contributed reporting for this article.


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