Avoid Muslim Lebanon
Hezbollah is in control of Lebanon
Thousands in Lebanon honor bodies of Hezbollah fighters
Unusually quick return of corpses by Israel was intended to restore calm.
Saturday, November 26, 2005
By ZEINA KARAM The Associated Press
BEIRUT, LEBANON – Israel returned to Lebanon on Friday the corpses of three Hezbollah guerrillas killed this week in fierce fighting in a disputed border area - an unusually quick return intended to restore calm. Hezbollah's leader told supporters the group would nonetheless continue to try to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
"It is our natural right to capture Israel soldiers," Sheik Hassan Nasrallah told a rally in the Hezbollah stronghold of south Beirut. "Indeed, it is our duty to do that."
Hezbollah's show of force - attacks on the Lebanese-Israeli border and Friday's mass rally - aimed to affirm the group's significance as a main player in Lebanese politics and as a key to stability with Israel.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora had demanded Wednesday that Israel return the bodies, saying it was necessary to restore calm after the clashes Monday, the heaviest in years.
Israel handed the bodies to the International Red Cross, which drove them through the Naqoura crossing on the Lebanese-Israeli border Friday.
Israel has previously kept the bodies of Hezbollah fighters for long periods - sometimes years at a time - eventually returning them in negotiated swaps for the remains of Israeli soldiers or prisoners. Its quick delivery this week indicates a desire to defuse tension on the border and to deny Hezbollah a pretext to launch further attacks.
Further, Israel knows that an escalation in border fighting would turn Lebanon's attention away from the country's main preoccupation - the U.N. investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and relations with Syria. The investigation has implicated top officials in Syria, a longtime enemy of Israel.
Sheik Nasrallah was on hand to welcome the guerrillas' coffins when they arrived in Lebanese ambulances at a complex south of Beirut. Families of the guerrillas were among several hundred mourners. Some threw flower petals at the caskets, which were wrapped in Hezbollah's yellow flag.
"We are used to martyrdom. I have five more (sons) and I am ready to offer them," Ibrahim Mousawi, the father of slain guerrilla Mohammed Mousawi, told Hezbollah's Al-Manar television.
In his speech, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah said he did not consider the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers to be a crime, and Hezbollah's attacks this week had sent a message that the group is still ready to defend Lebanon.
"We are not weak and we will not be weakened ... we are not afraid and we will not be frightened," he said in a speech to thousands of supporters that was interrupted several times by their roars of "Death to Israel!" and "Death to America!"
After his speech, Hezbollah pall bearers carried the three coffins to a podium where Nasrallah, a medium-ranking cleric, prayed for their souls.
The U.N. Security Council accused Hezbollah of starting Monday's fighting - something Hezbollah denies. It is thought the group may have been trying both to capture Israeli soldiers for a future exchange of prisoners and to take the pressure off Syria stemming from the U.N. investigation into Hariri's assassination.
In the fighting, Hezbollah guerrillas fired rockets at Israeli military posts, and Israel retaliated with airstrikes and an artillery bombardment. Eleven Israeli soldiers were wounded and four guerrillas were killed. The fourth guerrilla was carried back into Lebanon by his comrades and buried on Tuesday.
Fighting briefly resumed Wednesday when an Israeli civilian in a hang glider drifted across the border and landed inside Lebanon. Israeli troops shot at Hezbollah guerrillas to prevent them capturing the civilian as he ran back to Israel.
Last year, Hezbollah swapped an Israeli businessman and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers for about 400 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners.
Inside Hezbollah's Lebanon
The Washington Times
By Barbara Newman
July 20, 2006
As the Israeli military and the Lebanese
Hezbollah exchange blows and Middle East violence escalates, the chattering
class moves to center stage on the pundit circuit. My conclusion after listening
to hours of this is to question how little is known by so many about something
In the late 1980s, I was commissioned by Central Television in London -- one
of the important independent stations in the United Kingdom -- to produce a
documentary program about hostages being held in Lebanon by Hezbollah. I had
access to the material through many old contacts from Lebanon, especially Elie
Hobeika. Mr. Hobeika had been chief of security for the Christian Lebanese
Forces, but was forced out of the country after heading the operation that
killed about 1,200 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in 1982,
following the assassination of Christian President-elect Bashir Gemayel. Mr.
Hobeika had taken his wing of the Lebanese forces to Syria.
Timing is everything. And my request to Mr. Hobeika arrived at about the
same time that Syria wanted to clip Hezbollah's wings -- not directly but
through a critical TV documentary. Obviously, any TV investigation about the
hostages would not be friendly to Hezbollah. Mr. Hobeika explained to me that
Hezbollah's success in taking hostages had begun to turn around. It wasn't the
terrorist activities of Hezbollah that irritated the Syrians but the lack of
coordination. For example, the Syrians were furious when ABC producer Charles
Glass was seized and held in the Hezbollah-controlled south Beirut suburbs, and
they eventually arranged for him to be freed.
I flew with a Lebanese friend who worked for Mr. Hobeika from Paris to
Damascus. Mr. Hobeika met us at the airport, took us to the VIP lounge and
phoned Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam, actually waking him up. We got visas
immediately and then drove with Mr. Hobeika and his security detail to his
militia's headquarters in Zahle, a Christian city in Lebanon, in the Bekaa
Valley, which borders Syria.
Early the next day, three trucks filled with Syrian commandos dressed in
their pink-and-brown camouflage gear showed up to be our security as we filmed
in Baalbek, probably the most dangerous place in the world at the time. They
surrounded me in a circle, guns pointed out, as I filmed the Sheik Abdullah
Barracks. It was the headquarters of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as well as
Hezbollah. Several hostages were being held there. After the filming, Sheikh
Hussein Mussawi, the head of Hezbollah, sent me a message inviting me to
interview him at his headquarters in Baalbek. Talk about deja vu. He excoriated
the West for its degeneracy and called the Israelis and Jews "microbes who need
to be exterminated."
Hassan Nasrallah, the current head of Hezbollah, is Mussawi's direct
successor. Before his recent operation -- abducting two Israeli soldiers and
allowing Israel the opportunity to destroy his military wing -- Mr. Nasrallah
was thought to be almost infallible. He had acquired the charisma of a winner,
which is so important in the Arab world, by claiming to head the only Arab army
that ever defeated Israel. This is his own twist on Israel's 2000 evacuation
Mr. Nasrallah's esteem in the Arab world cannot be overstated. He is
especially close to Syrian President Bashar Assad and his British-born wife, who
look at him as a spiritual being.
It is not widely known that one of Mr. Nasrallah's sons was killed in a
Hezbollah-Israel border attack a few years ago, but this adds to his aura on the
street where he lives.
The sweet, fragile Lebanese democracy that some commentators poetically
invoke is a hoax. Mr. Nasrallah was the winner of the so-called democratic
elections, picking up 14 seats, getting two ministries with a third -- Foreign
Affairs -- in his pocket and making an alliance with the most popular Christian
there, Gen. Michel Aoun. This effectively gives him a headlock on state
The Lebanese parliament, under Mr. Nasrallah's thumb, says that
implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, calling for the
disarmament of Hezbollah, is an "internal affair." Mr. Nasrallah says it will
Aside from the $100 million Hezbollah gets from Iran, it gets additional
millions from criminal activities in the United States and elsewhere. In one
instance, money from a Hezbollah cell in Charlotte, N.C., was used to purchase
the most sensitive weapons of war in Canada.
We'd be a lot safer with the destruction of Hezbollah. It would be a good
lesson to like-minded extremists that what wins is pragma and not dogma.
Barbara Newman is a TV producer, senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and co-author of "Lightning out of Lebanon: Hezbollah Terrorists on American Soil."
Israel strikes Lebanon religious building July 22, 2006
Returning Home to Ruins: Shock Is Mixed With Outrage
By ROBERT F. WORTH
Published: August 15, 2006
BEIRUT, Lebanon, Aug. 14 — Four hours after the cease-fire with Israel started Monday morning, Dr. Abdel Munaim Mansour stood staring in disbelief at the mountainous of rubble that was once the apartment building where his family lived.
“We will kill every American for this!” Dr. Mansour shouted, his voice cracking with rage. “Every Shiite Muslim will kill Americans! We will grind them under our shoes!”
Dr. Mansour and his wife, Seneen, an elegantly dressed couple who work at a nearby hospital, stumbled on through their old neighborhood in a state of shock, seeming almost not to recognize the charred and shredded landscape around them. They had returned, after weeks of exile in the relative safety of the mountains, to the capital’s southern Shiite district, which has been largely deserted during a month of heavy Israeli bombardment.
Around the couple, thousands of others streamed back on Monday into the ruined streets, where smoke and the smell of rotting flesh rose from the rubble. Some cursed America and Israel and swore revenge; others simply wept. Most said that before they returned, they had no idea of the scale of the destruction in this area, which includes many Hezbollah offices.
“Why did they bomb here?” asked a 60-year-old woman in a black-and-white head scarf who gave her name only as Umm Abdullah. “So that people would turn against Nasrallah and the resistance?” referring to Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader. “But that will never happen. Whatever happens, we could never hate the resistance. They’re part of our blood, they’re our children.”
She gazed around sadly at the ruins. “If I only had a thousand livres for bread,” she said, about 75 cents, “I would give it to the resistance.”
A tall man in a blue shirt stepped eagerly past her, seemingly glimpsing the vista of ruins for the first time. “All of us are Hassan Nasrallah!” he bellowed. “Every man, every woman, every stone is Hassan Nasrallah!”
The tall man, as it happens, was Hassan Nasrallah. Not the Hezbollah leader, he quickly explained; he simply had the same name. He works at a bank nearby and is a distant relative of the revered cleric, he said.
After he had finished yelling, Mr. Nasrallah became polite and quiet. “We are not against the American people, we are against American foreign policy,” he said, switching from Arabic to French to talk to a reporter.
Not far away, Nurredin Asya, a soft-voiced 52-year-old shopkeeper in a black gown and wire-frame glasses, was gazing up sadly at her own apartment, on the top floor of a six-story building. It had been smashed from above, as if a giant thumb had crushed the top layer of a birthday cake. On the bottom floor of the same building is her minimarket — named Hasanain, after one of her four children. Its entryway was filled with rubble and broken glass piled high, its metal door smashed. She had another store a few blocks away. It is now a large crater.
“Everything is gone,” she said.
It was not the first time for Ms. Asya. She is Lebanese but grew up in Liberia, she said, and had three food markets there until 1993, when war engulfed that country, too, and she was forced to flee. She lost $350,000, she said.
“I am thinking to take my visa and go,” she said. Her husband is in Virginia, where he was visiting one of their daughters when the bombing began, and has not been able to return. But Ms. Asya said she would rather go to Britain.
As she spoke, a young girl dressed in black walked past, her cheeks wet with tears. She was holding a yellow Hezbollah flag. Elsewhere, people had planted the flag on the mounds of ruin alongside the Lebanese flag. Several Hezbollah security guards stood on street corners carrying AK-47 rifles; it was the first time they had moved openly in the area for weeks.
Ms. Asya said quietly that Hezbollah would never give up its weapons.
“You know why Hezbollah succeeds?” she said. “Because you can’t see them. The army you can see, so Israel knows where they are and can get them.”
“Who is Hezbollah?” Ms. Asya went on, gesturing at the residents and aid workers in the streets all around her. “They are the sons and daughters and parents of Hezbollah.”
A few blocks away, earthmovers and bulldozers were digging away at the smoking ruins of a vast open area where eight apartment buildings had been destroyed Sunday afternoon in an Israeli airstrike. The construction crews had begun working within an hour after the cease-fire took effect Monday. The same blast had sheared off the walls of neighboring buildings; one woman pointed anxiously to her fourth-floor apartment, where a red outfit belonging to her baby girl could be seen hanging from the exposed bedroom.
At the edge of the open lot, a heavyset man in a white T-shirt caught sight of a skinny boy and called to him, spreading his arms. The boy ran to him, and soon they were locked in an embrace, tears streaming down their cheeks.
Later, the man, who gave his name as Abu Ahmed Bazi, said the boy, Ahmed, 9, had lost his parents and several siblings in the bombing on Sunday. The boy survived only because he happened to cross the street to buy an ice cream in Mr. Bazi’s candy shop just beforehand, he said.
“I held the boy and told him to pray to Imam Ali to save us,” said Mr. Bazi, his face red and sweaty. “When the bombing stopped I couldn’t believe it — he wasn’t even scratched.”
Sectarian violence erupts in Lebanon
Iranian-backed protesters want government out
The Associated Press
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Hezbollah-led protesters burned tires and cars and clashed with government supporters Tuesday, paralyzing Beirut and areas across Lebanon in the worst violence yet in the pro-Iranian group's campaign to topple U.S.-backed Prime Minister Fuad Saniora.
At least three people were killed and dozens injured as the two camps battled each other around street barricades with stone-throwing and in some cases gunfire.
The fighting quickly took on a dangerous sectarian tone in a country whose divided communities fought a bloody 1975-1990 civil war. Gunmen from neighboring districts in the northern city of Tripoli — one largely Sunni Muslim, the other largely Alawites, a Shiite Muslim offshoot — fought each other, causing two of the fatalities.
The day gave a frightening glimpse of how quickly the confrontation between Saniora's government and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies could spiral out of control, inflame tensions among Sunnis, Shiites and Christians and throw Lebanon into deeper turmoil.
In the evening, the opposition announced it would call off the roadblocks and the nationwide general strike that sparked the unrest, saying it had delivered a warning to the government. But it threatened more protests.
Opposition supporters began withdrawing from their street blockades, leaving behind burning tires, concrete blocks and debris. At one abandoned roadblock in the north of Beirut, a fire engine extinguished the burning tires.
Suleiman Franjieh, a Christian opposition leader, told Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV the next steps "will be nothing compared to what we saw today" if the government does not respond to the opposition's demands.
The Hezbollah-led opposition is growing increasingly frustrated after two months of sit-in protests outside Saniora's offices in downtown Beirut failed to force him to step down or form a new government giving the opposition more power.
Saniora vowed not to give in, saying in a televised address: "We will stand together against intimidation and to confront sedition."
He repeated his willingness to discuss a political solution to the impasse and called for a special session of Parliament.
Hezbollah gunmen seize control of Beirut neighborhoods
By BASSEM MROUE
May 9, 2008
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) — Shiite Hezbollah gunmen seized control of key parts of Beirut from Sunnis loyal to the U.S.-backed government Friday, a dramatic show-of-force certain to strengthen the Iranian-allied group's hand as it fights for dominance in Lebanon's political deadlock.
An ally of Hezbollah said the group intended to pull back, at least partially, from the areas its gunmen occupied overnight and Friday morning — signaling Hezbollah likely does not intend a full-scale, permanent takeover of Sunni Muslim parts of Beirut, similar to the Hamas takeover of Gaza a year ago.
The clashes eased by Friday evening as Lebanon's army began peacefully moving into some areas where Hezbollah gunmen had a presence.
But as Hezbollah gunmen celebrated in the capital's empty streets — including marching down Hamra Street, one of its glitziest shopping lanes — it was clear that the show-of-force would have wide implications for Lebanon and the entire Mideast.
Lebanon's army largely stood aside as the Shiite militiamen scattered their opponents and occupied large swaths of the capital's Muslim sector early Friday — a sign of how tricky Lebanon's politics have become.
In one instance, the army stood aside as Shiite militiamen burned the building of the newspaper of their main Sunni rival — acting only to evacuate people and then allow firefighters later to put out the blaze.
The army has pledged to keep the peace but not take sides in the long political deadlock — which pits Shiite Hezbollah and a handful of allies including some Christian groups, against the U.S.-backed government, which includes Christian and Sunni Muslims.
Three days of street battles and gunfights capped by Friday's Hezbollah move have killed at least 14 people and wounded 20 — the country's worst sectarian fighting since the 1975-1990 civil war.
Three more people were killed in two separate incidents on Friday after the Hezbollah takeover. Two of them were Druse allies of Hezbollah who died in a shooting in a hilly suburb southeast of the capital late Friday, security officials said.
For Beirut residents and those across the Mideast, it was a grim reminder of that troubled time when Beirut was carved into enclaves ruled by rival factions and car bombs and snipers devastated the capital.
The takeover by the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah was a blow to U.S. policy as President Bush's administration has been a staunch supporter of the government in Beirut over the last three years.
"We are very troubled by the recent actions of Hezbollah," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Friday.
"We urge Hezbollah to stop their attempt to defy the lawful decisions taken by the democratically elected Lebanese government. We also urge Iran and Syria to stop their support of Hezbollah and its destabilizing effects on Lebanon," he added.
The fighting also was certain to have implications for the entire Middle East at a time when Sunni-Shiite tensions are high. The tensions are fueled in part by the rivalry between predominantly Shiite Iran, which sponsors Hezbollah, and Sunni Arab powers in the region such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The leaders of Qatar and Syria held talks on Lebanon in Damascus, which wields influence with Hezbollah and has close relations with Iran. Syria's official news agency said the two sides agreed the conflict in Lebanon was an internal affair and expressed hope the feuding parties would find a solution through dialogue.
About 100 Shiite Hezbollah militants wearing matching camouflage uniforms and carrying assault rifles marched down Hamra Street, a normally vibrant commercial strip in a mainly Sunni area of Beirut. They took up positions in corners and sidewalks and stopped the few cars braving the empty streets to search their trunks.
On nearby streets, dozens of fighters from another Hezbollah-allied party appeared, some wearing masks and carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
The Hezbollah takeover was peaceful in some neighborhoods as the militants fanned out across the Muslim sector of the city.
Later in the day, Lebanese troops began taking up positions in some Sunni neighborhoods abandoned by the pro-government groups, but did not intervene in the clashes, which had largely tapered off into sporadic gunfire by early afternoon. Some of the gunfire was celebratory in the air by the militants.
A senior security official said the army began deploying on some streets with the end of the clashes and would soon take over the Sunnis' last stronghold of Tarik Jadideh. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
In some cases Hezbollah handed over newly won positions to Lebanese troops, presumably after having made clear to everyone its strength ahead of the next round of negotiations with opponents over the country's political future.
Hezbollah's power was demonstrated dramatically Friday morning when it forced the TV station affiliated to the party of Lebanon's top Sunni lawmaker, Saad Hariri, off the air. Gunmen also set the offices of the party's newspaper, Al-Mustaqbal, on fire in the coastal neighborhood of Ramlet el-Bayda.
Later in the afternoon, anti-government gunmen loyal to a pro-Syrian group attacked and set on fire a two-story building where Hariri's Future TV have their archives. The building, in the western neighborhood of Rawche, is about 100 yards from the Saudi embassy.
With top leaders Hariri of the Sunnis and Druse leader Walid Jumblatt besieged in their residences in Muslim western Beirut, officials of the pro-government majority held an emergency meeting in a mountain town in the Christian heartland northeast of Beirut
After the meeting, they issued a statement calling on the army to take control of the streets and urging Arab and international intervention to pressure the countries that support Hezbollah — meaning Iran and Syria.
"The bloody coup d'etat aims at returning Syria to Lebanon and placing Iran on the Mediterranean," said the statement read by Christian pro-government leader Samir Geagea. "Violence will not terrorize us, but it will increase our resolve," he said.
He said the Hezbollah takeover violated the constitution which governs Christian-Muslim coexistence in Lebanon.
Late Friday, a group of gunmen fired about a dozen bullets at a statue of Rafik Hariri next to the seafront road where he was killed in a massive 2005 truck bombing. The statue was raised in February on the anniversary of the assassination.
Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and several ministers were holed up in Saniora's downtown office surrounded by troops and police.
An emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo to discuss the crisis will be held in two days, said Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki.
The unrest has virtually shut down Lebanon's international airport and barricades closed major highways. The seaport also was closed, leaving one land route to Syria as Lebanon's only link to the outside world.
Associated Press writer Scheherezade Faramarzi contributed to this report.
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