zaterdag 10 mei 2008

Hezbollah heeft west Beiroet onder controle

Jumblatt said: "I did not anticipate such a strong response from Hezbollah, but ... yes ... the group is much stronger than other armed militias."

He also said: "If you want to know what the next move for Hezbollah will be, ask [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad [the Iranian president]. This situation goes beyond Lebanese borders."

Hezbollah doet niks zonder Iraanse toestemming. Als Iran zijn zin krijgt wordt Libanon een shiitische theocratie en vazalstaat van Iran.

En laten we ophouden met verbaasd te doen over hoe sterk en agressief Hezbollah is. Dat moge inmiddels duidelijk zijn. Als niemand ze iets in de weg legt, als UNIFIL een wassen neus is, het centrale gezag in Libanon zwak en verdeeld, terwijl zowel Iran als Syrië wel weten wat ze willen en Hezbollah tot de tanden toe hebben bewapend, dan mag wat nu gebeurt eigenlijk niet verbazen.


Hezbollah in control of west Beirut
At least 11 people have been killed since fighting erupted in Beirut since Wednesday [Reuters]
Clashes have again erupted on the streets of Beirut, the Lebanese capital, as Hezbollah takes control of large areas of the capital from groups loyal to the government following gun battles.

The building of Future TV network, owned by Saad Hariri, a prominent pro-government politician, was set alight in continued violence on Friday.
The street battles, which first erupted on Wednesday, have so far left at least 11 people dead and 20 others wounded.

Lebanese troops began taking up positions in some neighbourhoods in west Beirut abandoned by the pro-government groups.
The army has largely avoided getting involved in the street battles amid fears of being dragged into the conflict.

According to an opposition official, roadblocks will not be lifted around Beirut and the international airport until the government rescinds its measures against Hezbollah and sits down for a national dialogue.
Earlier in the day, a rocket-propelled grenade struck the fence of the heavily protected residence of Saad Hariri in the suburb of Koreitem, a Muslim area of western Beirut.
Hariri, leader of the Future bloc, the biggest party in Lebanon's governing coalition, was believed to be inside at the time but unhurt.
Earlier, armed men loyal to Hezbollah forced Future News, the news channel of the Future media group, off the air in Beirut.

"Gunmen surrounded the building, stormed into the garage and demanded that the army shut down the station," a senior TV official said.

Future group targeted

Security sources said Hezbollah and fighters from the allied Amal movement - both Shia groups - had overrun offices of Hariri's Future conglomerate across the predominantly Muslim western half of the Lebanese capital.

The headquarters of the Future media group's Al-Mustaqbal daily was also surrounded by fighters firing rocket-propelled grenades, setting fire to one floor, its managing editor said.

Nadim Munla, the general manager of Future TV, told Al Jazeera that masked armed men entered the control rooms and cut off the cables.

"We have been effectively prevented from broadcasting and doing our jobs as media professionals," he said.

"Hezbollah ... have proven that the gun is stronger than the value of the opinion. We have only one thing left - free speech, and their guns will not silence us."

Lebanese troops evacuated the staff of the TV station's terrestrial and satellite studios in the Kantari area of western Beirut.

Meanwhile, in a statement seen as politically significant, Michel Aoun, a Christian leader allied with the Hezbollah-led opposition, has said that normalcy should be restored on the streets.

"The derailed carriage is now back on track. We hope from this point that things will fall back into the normal course [of events]," he said on Friday.

Aoun said that he had sent a letter to Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, and various member states of the UN Security Council, but "did not find a clear response to avert the crisis".  

Later, Amin Gemayel, leader of the pro-government Kataeb Party, the mainly Maronite Christian party, urged Christians to stay away from the fighting.

He accused Hezbollah of staging a coup.

Saudi pressure


Reports have also emerged that the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon advised Fouad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, to step down.

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, said: "This is a significant move considering that the Saudi government is a staunch supporter of the ruling coalition in Beirut.

"The Saudis see this as a dangerous situation that can escalate rapidly."

 Opposition fighters took rapid control of
many suburbs of Lebanon's capital [AFP]

In an exclusive interview to Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, Walid Jumblatt, head of the Progressive Socialist Party and and leader of Lebanon's Druze community, said that he did not regret his backing for the removal of the head of security of Beirut airport, whom the government accused of being too close to Hezbollah.

"Jumblatt did not anticipate such a strong response from Hezbollah, and he is resigned to the fact that the group is much stronger than other armed militias," Amin said.

"He said that the government should have undertaken these moves earlier, but predicts that the fighting will end soon."

Jumblatt said: "I did not anticipate such a strong response from Hezbollah, but ... yes ... the group is much stronger than other armed militias."

He also said: "If you want to know what the next move for Hezbollah will be, ask [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad [the Iranian president]. This situation goes beyond Lebanese borders."

Hezbollah control

In several neighbourhoods across the capital, automatic rifle fire could be heard in the worst domestic fighting since the 1975-90 civil war.

Hezbollah also took control of all roads leading to Beirut's international airport, Lebanon's only air link to the outside world.

Lebanese troops took control of several west
Beirut suburbs from opposition fighters [AFP]
According to Elie Zakhour, a port official, Beirut's sea port was also shut down "until further notice" because of the situation, Lebanon's state-run National News Agency reported.

Tension between the government and Hezbollah escalated when the cabinet said the group's private phone network was illegal and an attack on the country's sovereignty.

Hezbollah said it was infuriated by government allegations it was spying on Beirut airport and by the cabinet's decision to fire the head of airport security.

The fighting has prompted urgent appeals for calm from the international community.

Meeting sought

Saudi Arabia and Egypt called for an urgent meeting of Arab foreign ministers to try to halt the violence.

"An emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo to discuss the crisis will be held in two days," Hossam Zaki, the Egyptian foreign ministery spokesman, said.

The UN Security Council also called for "calm and restraint", urging all sides to return to peaceful dialogue.

Syria said the dispute in Lebanon was an "internal affair" and expressed hope the feuding parties would find a solution through dialogue.


Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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