Daily Israel Report

Lebanon Fears a Return to Civil War

Lebanese soldiers continued to deploy on Friday, searching for Hizbullah men who have been leading the violent clashes aimed at toppling the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 1/26/2007, 9:14 AM / Last Update: 1/26/2007, 10:52 AM

The government troops are focusing their efforts on the areas around the flashpoints in Tripoli, Beirut and Bint-Jbeil. The latter two are Hizbullah strongholds that were repeatedly attacked by Israeli forces during last summer’s war with the terrorists in Lebanon.

Israel was censured for the damage and casualties that came as a result of terrorists hiding among civilians in the villages. The civilians were used as human shields by the terrorists, a favorite tactic of Palestinian Authority terrorists as well, while firing anti-tank and other missiles at Israeli troops.

Violent clashes between government and pro-Syrian forces at the Arab University spread quickly through Beirut Thursday evening, forcing authorities to impose a rare curfew. Burning cars and sniper fire brought unwelcome reminders of the 15-year civil war that raged from 1975 to 1990.

Three people were killed and 13 Lebanese army soldiers were among the 138 wounded. Prime Minister Siniora pleaded for citizens to "avoid tension and escalation" and "to calm down and return to their senses."

Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah also called for his supporters to refrain from violence. "Anyone who raises arms against their brother is the same as an Israeli," he stated.

Thursday’s battles in the streets came while Siniora was in Paris at a gathering of forty nations who met to raise funds for reconstruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure in the wake of last summer's war..

Lebanon’s national debt is currently almost double its annual economic output, making it one of the most deeply indebted nations in the world and placing it on the verge of a deep recession. The donor nations hope that by bolstering the current Lebanese government, it will weaken the strength of Hizbullah and its backers, Syria and Iran.

Saudi Arabia and the United States together pledged nearly one-fourth of the $7.6 billion raised at the conference, which Shi'ite Muslims charge is intended to prop up the government and not to help the country.

Representatives of the terrorist organization were not invited to the meeting, which was held one day after civil unrest was touched off by a general strike called by Hizbullah arch-terror chief Hassan Nasrallah in an effort to bring down Siniora’s government.

Thousands of pro-Hizbullah and pro-Syrian Lebanese massed in the street Tuesday, blocking roads, closing the country’s only civilian airport and effectively shutting down the country.

Three people were killed and nine others were wounded in gunfights between Hizbullah and government supporters, as demonstrations erupted across the country. All the dead and wounded were supporters of Siniora’s government.

The battle for control of the government began weeks ago with an announcement by Hizbullah legislator Amim Cherri in an interview with the Beirut Daily Star that Hizbullah and pro-Syrian political parties planned to escalate their efforts to topple the government.

Thousands of Lebanese supporters of the terrorist organization and its Syrian backers answered a call by Nasrallah to take their struggle for power to the streets. Hizbullah supporters turned out en masses to camp in the streets of Beirut for weeks following the government’s refusal to grant Hizbullah more seats in the cabinet.

Meanwhile, death threats forced Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to cancel his planned visit to Lebanon this week, according to an Arab newspaper.

Abbas Zaki, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) representative in Lebanon, was quoted as saying that death threats "were dangerous and could not be ignored." He added that they were not connected with civil strife in the country.

Abbas previously visited Syria where he held talks with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on a possible unity government.

Germany, which holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, issued a call on behalf of the EU to end the violence in Lebanon. Germany called to all sides involved in the conflict to cease fighting and begin direct negotiations.

Saudi Arabian officials who tried to mediate between the two sides were unsuccessful in their efforts to resolve the crisis.