Friday, June 29, 2007

Breaking in Two: The Cabinet (Part I of II)

Lebanon’s pro-Syrian Opposition is preparing for a Second Government, one it will use to undercut the international legitimacy of the country’s current government and one which allow Syria to push its agenda and its disruptions for another 6 years.

After turning down a number of majority-backed consensus offers, most recently delivered by Amr Moussa and first consisting of an offer for a 19+10+1 government (turned down the last time Moussa was around) then developing into an offer for a 19+11 government with a ‘no resignations clause’(for a government with a remaining mandate of only 3 months), the Syrians along with their quislings in Lebanon have signalled their intention to push forward with a plan to undermine the legitimacy of the state and its executive branches as embodied by the Presidency and the Premiership.

Through the attack on UNIFIL, combined with this assault on the state, Syria and its allies will be hoping to undermine the existence of a central state authority with which any international troops in Lebanon, along with their governments, must ultimately deal. Without a central authority there can be no centralization of International, Arab, and Lebanese efforts to extract the country from the political and security mire created by the Syrian regime.

And with Hizballah's faux-investigation of this week's attack against UNIFIL in full swing, the ground work for the forceful detachment of the government from its international obligations and legitimacy has begun. Witness the ongoing meetings between Spanish officers and Hizballah officials, along with that country’s call to Iran’s Foreign Minister for “help in uncovering the identity of the assailants” of the attack– again in an area of the country where “where booby-trapped cars are parked only with its [Hizballa’s] consent”. And there’s more:
France and Italy, who have large contingents in UNIFIL, are worried. If there is no domestic reconciliation, they fear, their forces in the South will be caught between the Siniora government and a rival government in which Hizbullah would be represented. For logistical reasons, UNIFIL would have to deal with both, creating an impossible situation when it comes to recognizing the legality of only one.
Of course all this comes at the cusp of a new UN initiative to place ‘International Experts’ on our borders with Syria. It is a move the government has already begun laying the groundwork for by first obtaining Arab League recognition of the problem on our borders with Syria, a point forcefully highlighted by the UN report* which issued the international experts recommendation, and an endorsement of the recommended solution.

A solution that would be bad news for Syria - which had previously declared that it would view such a move as a declaration of war (a little redundant since they have been assassination Lebanese politicians and attacking-by-proxy the Lebanese Army for the past 3 weeks, months, years, decades). And a solution Syria has already moved to dissuade some Lebanese and the international community from pursuing through the attack on UNIFIL, the attacks on the Army in the North, the border closures it has enacted, and the upcoming escalation (i.e. coup attempt) on the cabinet in the form of a second government crisis.

And although such a crisis would to some extent be an end in itself for a regime banking on chaos in Lebanon to generate buyers for its version of peace, it is a crisis with a very limited time-frame dictated by the stresses it will place on the other structures of the state - such as the country’s Central Bank which houses the state’s funds, and the Army which is constitutionally stipulated to report back to the legitimate cabinet – along with the looming presidential elections, parliamentary deliberations for which are due to start this September.

And that is where Syria and its allies in Lebanon will hope to see a significant payoff from this campaign. By creating a two-government constitutional crisis on the heels of the Lebanese Army’s victory in Nahr el Bared (a victory they were unable to snuff out) the Syrians will hope to use the crisis’ resultant disruptions, along with the national admiration imbued in everything Army, to push their candidate for the Lebanese Presidency, one delivered from proven stock (follow the link and check the rumour).
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*The UN report also recommended Lebanese inter-agency cooperation at securing the border - a jab at the Hizballah-controlled General Security agency which is in charge of border security and which failed to report a single border violation even while other less-Hizballah-dominated security agencies were continuously intercepting trucks laden with rockets, machine guns, and terrorists.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Propaganda Machine: Mimic, Mock - Equate, Erase

Anyone ever notice how Syria's Hizballah-led allies in the country have successfully (to some extent at least) deflated every new, creative, and uniting initiative launched by those working for a free Lebanon?

I'm not talking about hardcore politics here but simple grassroots, mass media oriented, popular initiatives.

Their strategy has been simple really, take a new initiative launched by the anti-Syrian movement, evaluate its national appeal and undertones, then destroy that appeal and any unifying message therein by mocking and mimicking it until it is void of any symbolism or meaning*.

Take the popular protests that followed directly after the assassination of the country's former Premier Rafic Hariri. After the initial drawing in of the various factions in the country, each under their own banner, a new initiative was launched to have all subsequent protests held under one flag, the Lebanese flag. It was an exciting time, one of fear and new found hope as members of the country's various religions and factions came together in an unparalleled show of unity. These successive demonstrations against the Syrian occupation and campaign of violence would eventually lead up to the largest gathering of Lebanese ever to be recorded, that demonstration would take place on March 14th, 2005.

Before it would take place however, Syria's allies in the country would mobilize, launching a massive demonstration of their own - ripe with Syrian filled buses rushed through the country's porous border - with Lebanese flags in ample supply, and with Hassan Nasrallah, Hizballah's Secretary General, at their head declaring his undying gratitude to Syria and its President Bashar al Assad. That demonstration took place on March 8th, 2005.

The move was meant to drain any meaning from the unity derived through the Lebanese flag, to wilt away at the blossoming of a new Lebanon driven by its people's desire for freedom and sovereignty, and united in their respect for Lebanon as their country and their state - as symbolized by the flag. As was mentioned above, the March 14th demonstration still took place with resounding success, but the purity of its meaning, symbolism, and marketability would take a hit.

And to this day the hits continue. Some, such as pro-Syrian opposition MPs' newly found penchant for referring to the March 14th movement as the February 14th movement - again trying to negate the symbolism and national unity generated on that day and equate it with one sect, represented by one man now dead - have had a negligible effect.

More successful campaigns have included pro-Syrian groups' malicious assault on the "I Love Life" media campaign launched by the country's anti-Syrian coalition in rejection of the deadly and destructive war Hizballah had precipitated on the entire country in the summer of 2006. In response to the "I Love Life" campaign Syria's allies launched a textbook mimic-and-mock campaign titled "I Love Life - In Color" and replete with its very own rainbow, either proclaiming those groups' support for Gay and Lesbian groups in the country (which I doubt) or aimed at undermining another vital factor of the country's anti-Syrian drive: its ability to unite Lebanese from different sects and factions in support of the country's sovereignty.

While those campaigns mentioned above had sought to counter creativity and symbolism with charades and mockery, head on, other far more damaging campaigns have used this mimicry and assault on symbolism only as a second objective - pushing their partisans first and foremost towards an assault on the state itself. Here I am talking about the events of December 2006 - which in turn resulted in the devastating national calamities of the pro-Syrians' coup attempt on January 23rd and the internal strife that attempt resulted in on January 25th, 2007.
For a review of those events, and the pro-Syrians' mimicking of the anti-Syrian drive to oust the Syrian installed puppet-government of Omar Karami in their campaign against the country's first post-Syrian-withdrawal government led by Fouad Siniora, I leave with the posts of those tumultuous times.

For now, I leave you with the words that have begun to precede the pro-Syrians' next attempt at seizing power. The propaganda machine is hard at work, but the most destructive action is yet to come.
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*Although this negation factor is the focus of this post it is not, on its own, the ultimate driver behind the defeaning propaganda machine operated by Hizballah and its cohorts in the pro-Syrian opposition. No, the first and foremost objective of any and all of this machinery is to try and imprint on the psyche of the Lebanese populace a false moral, ethical, and institutional equivalence between the words and actions of those factions fighting to preserve Syria's interests in the country with those fighting to eliminate Syrian interference and domination in Lebanon.

More Fighting in the North...

Lebanese troops clashed with gunmen Thursday morning in the town of Qalamoun south of the port city of Tripoli (the Nahr el Bared camp is north of the city) in north Lebanon (the same town in which 4 Army soldiers were killed by a Fatah al Islam ambush on the first day of fighting, May 20th, 2007.)

Six Fatah al Islam have been reported killed, with at least 3 being of non-Lebanese nationality. The clashes came shortly before 8:00 am as Lebanese Army units were conducting raids in the area.

Last week, Murr declared victory over Fatah al-Islam, but heavy machine gun fire and bursts of artillery shells continue to reverberate across the camp, including on Tuesday, sending plumes of black and white smoke into the air.

“The army has accomplished its military mission with regard to destroying and occupying all Fatah Islam positions in the Nahr el-Bared camp,” Murr maintained Tuesday.

When fighting broke out, there were more than 350 Fatah Islam fighters in the camp. Murr said the “remaining number now is between 50 to 60.”

He said 84 soldiers have been killed and more than 150 soldiers have been wounded. (Ya Libnan)

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Images from the Nahr el Bared camp: Wednesday evening, June 27th, 2007.

Mortar shells explode [and bullet traces are seen] as fighting continues in the besieged Palestinian Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon. A safe haven has been set up inside a bombed-out refugee camp in Lebanon for civilians trapped by almost 40 days of fighting between the army and Islamist militiamen, a Palestinian camp official said. (AFP/Jinan Nour al-Dunia)

Sign the Flag...

...and say thank you to our national heroes in the Lebanese Army for fighting and dying so that we could live in a free, sovereign, and independent country, free of terror and tyranny.
Our website’s initiative is simple; all you have to do is sign the Lebanese flag. By doing that, your name will be added and printed on a huge real flag which will be presented to the Lebanese Army on August 1, 2007, celebrating “The Lebanese Army Day”.

For just one of the many stories of heroism and bravery that have emerged the Battle for Nahr el Bared and the fight against Fatah al Islam, I leave you with a recount of our young men in action. Here is a quote:
Knowing that one of his comrades was already dead, that soldier jumped on his Captain laying on the floor and covered him with his own body, while returning fire as fast as he could and in all directions. Ramzi, and still conscious, ordered his remaining officer to retreat, seek shelter, and wait until the rest of the platoon arrives, as it was not necessary for him to die. That Sunni soldier adamantly replied that he will NOT abandon his Captain (who happens to be a Maronite) and kept on firing while laying on top of him.

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By then the rest of the platoon arrived.

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Realizing that their Captain, along with one of their companions were gunned down, and with pure adrenaline, 2 of the officers charged in a somewhat suicidal attempt to rescue their Captain and fallen comrade. The 2 were hit immediately (1 of them was a Shi3a.)
Be sure to read the entire entry. This story is our story, our Lebanon - one in which we’re united by our country and our land and not divided by our religion.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Haret Hreik Rehabilitiation Hindered by Hizballah

At the height of the July War this blog came into being with a series of posts that attempted to outline the corrosive nature of Hizballah's monopoly over the Shiite sect, and the need for the government and civil society as a whole to take strong, decisive action to put an end to the extra-institutional state the group has been operating in Lebanon for approximately two decades now.

This action would be centered around the massive destruction and devastation wrought on the predominantly Shiite regions and neighborhoods, and particularly on the need to rebuild those areas while integrating them into the wider Lebanese social, economic, and institutional fabric allthewhile weaning them off of the Hizballah state. It wouldn't be easy, I wrote at the time, Hizballah would rally all of its facilities to prevent this integration and to ensure that its community would remain steadfastly in its grip.

Today, almost 2 weeks before the 1 year anniversary of the operation that launched a war fought on behalf of others and paid for only by us, the Shiite community of Haret Hreik, and the rest of the Hizballah controlled southern suburbs of the country's capital, are once again firmly in the grip of the organization and militia which has delivered them so much death and destruction.

The New Opinion Workshop (NOW) published today an exposee of sorts on efforts by a variety of Lebanese and International architects to present a plan to enhance the quality of life in the southern suburbs and integrate its residents within the wider Lebanese community, through the ongoing reconstruction projects. The architects were brought together through a community project launched at the American University of Beirut (AUB) and aimed at providing the residents of the southern suburbs a say in the way their neighborhoods would be rebuilt and a forum of expertise which could help them realize these plans outside of the choking political and social hegemony imposed by Hizballah.

The plan delivered by the AUB Reconstruction Unit, lies on the desks of numerous Hizballah - and its Jihad al Bina reconstruction off-shoot - officials' desks collecting dust. Officials who with the help of Iranian funds, community roots, and plain and simple intimidation, have managed to acquire nearly exclusive control over reconstruction efforts in the affected neighborhoods - doing so through a collective acquisition of powers of attorney for the land deeds held by the residents of those areas.

Needless to say any and all of the suggestions provided in the Unit's report have been rejected. According to those Hizballah officials interviewed by NOW, the reasons behind the rejection lie in the time-frame put forward by the Unit. Those involved in the community project, however, disagreed:
Ghandour [of the AUB Reconstruction group] thinks that the real reason behind Hezbollah’s unwillingness to incorporate their proposal was mainly because they do not want anyone else to intervene in the Dahiyeh. “They probably want to keep their full control over the area, and allowing other groups to participate in the process could weaken their authority,” he said.
No matter the reason, the cost of the continued isolation and hegemony Hizballah imposes on this vital and vibrant community will continue to be felt in Lebanon and the Shiite community for generations to come. Generations whose social and national outlook will be shaped by the events of today.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fast Forward

Did we really expect it to be any different from this?

As the conflict in Nahr el Bared dragged on, and as indications that Syria intended to intensify the conflict became more evident, there has been one nagging sentiment that has permeated the situation on the ground: Syria (and its allies in Lebanon) would not - could not! - allow the Lebanese in general, and the Lebanese Army in particular, to emerge victorious from the battle for Nahr el Bared.

And so, with our Minister of Defense's premature articulation of the words "Victory in Nahr el Bared", came the latest hand in the Syrian regime's cards of terror in Lebanon. A hand that was facilitated by the errant diplomacy of European administrations reluctant to play the game by the only rules that apply to this regime. There is no such thing as a policy of appeasement with a regime that has thrived solely on its ability to strike with "plausible deniability".

Today, while Spain buries the its latest victims in Syria's war for Lebanon, while its foreign minister pleads with his counterpart - not in Lebanon but - in Iran for "help in uncovering the identity of the assailants", Hizballah has announced that it would be conducting its own investigation into who carried out an attack in an area of the country where the organization (militia) is already securely in control, and where booby-trapped cars are parked only with its consent.

Hizballah will go through the motions of an investigation the purpose of which (taken along with the rocket launch last week) will be to undercut the effectiveness of the UNIFIL deployment and to undermine the authority of the state even after a Lebanese Army deployment to the area after an absence of 25 years. More importantly, however, the attacks (and "investigation") will have come after the withdrawal of a number of Army units from the South to assist in the fight at Nahr el Bared and the security crises created by Syria's foot-soldiers in the other Palestinian bases (both inside and outside the camps) as well as the ongoing charade downtown.

Writing several days before this most recent attack, the Dailystar's Michael Young hinted as to the direction Syria's combined campaigns in the country might be heading:
What would the purpose of this second government be, beyond wreaking havoc in the country and putting pressure on Siniora's government? Simply, to neutralize the effectiveness of the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL in the South, by making their interlocutor in the state unclear. Many have overlooked that the Nahr al-Bared fighting might have been a stage in a process to render the army less effectual in South Lebanon. Several units have been pulled out of the South in the past six months - first to prevent sectarian clashes in Beirut after the opposition built its tent city in the Downtown area last December; then to engage in fighting in the North. This has given Hizbullah much more room to maneuver in the border area, while also opening space up for groups operated from Syria. Even if Hizbullah did not fire the rockets against Kiryat Shmona on Sunday - probably the work of pro-Syrian Palestinians - it almost certainly was aware of the attack, and did not oppose it.

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For Syria and Iran, as well as for Hizbullah, Resolution 1701 is the door through which the international community entered Lebanon in force, after Resolution 1559 and the Hariri tribunal. That's the reason Tehran and Damascus want to render UNIFIL powerless, even though there will remain useful idiots in Europe who think they can reach an understanding with the Syrian regime to protect UN forces. Syria has no interest in this, however, because it has likely taken a strategic decision with Iran to remove any vestige of international influence in Lebanon - as it did in Gaza - with the goal of reviving its domination over the country.
In unleashing this most recent wave of terrorist activity in the South, the regime next door was neither a new trick nor an unexpected one. And while the body counts may not add up just yet, Bashar's use of the handbook of terror employed by his father, coupled with the urgency of this regime's sequence of actions, has generated a feeling of deja vu as the events that plagued the country throughout its civil war are played back, in fast-forward. And where attacks on international troops have come, attacks against embassies have been quick to follow. But there is time yet before that card is played, time yet to allow Syria's fifth column in the country to try, once again, at launching coup on the government and the state - a fast forwarding that will take the country from the Syrian orchestrated-Iranian delivered reality of 1983 to the Syrian orchestrated-Aoun delivered reality of 1989.

So in the wake of another failed Arab League mission to draw the country's opposition forces into negotiations and compromises within the Lebanese domestic arena - and without the panderings to and coercive influence of the regime in Syria - the country prepares for yet another showdown. One, the trigger for which will be pulled by September and the arrival of presidential elections, and one an overburdened Army and an overstressed population may not be able to control.

Before I go I'll leave you with a series of quotes, from different sources and different junctures in time.

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"The Syrians and Iranians may be thinking along the same lines in Lebanon. Create a parallel government; erode UNIFIL's effectiveness while compelling the Lebanese Army to manage Syrian-created security brushfires; press your advantage against the drained Americans, the spineless Europeans, and the debilitated Arabs; and then, when the international community and Arab states are truly lost, strike using Hizbullah and drive your coup toward its logical conclusion: a new Pax-Syria in Lebanon, supported by Iran." (Michael Young, 7/22/07).

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"The first casualty of a Chapter 7 tribunal will be UNSCR 1701 and UNIFIL." (Wiam Wahhab - Syria's pitbull and agent in Lebanon, 2/8/07. H/T Anton Efendi).

'Regarding the Syrian stand on these forces, Moallem explained that Damascus "does not want these international forces to meet the same fate of the multinational forces in 1983".' (Al-Hayat, 8/1/06 - [Syria's Foreign Minister Walid] Moallem Warns Against Turning Lebanon 'Into Another Iraq' and 'Al-Qa'ida' Infiltration. H/T Anton Efendi).

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"In that case, what the Syrians would be looking for would be a way of forcing the international community, or more specifically the broader western contingent of the incoming UN force, to be in need of the regime’s services. By instigating untraceable attacks – easily attributed to Al-Qaeda or other fundamentalist groups – the Syrians would in effect be creating a situation in which they could provide for the security of the international troops, or even of the Lebanese state as a whole in the worst case scenario, through a quick and well-greased re-infiltration of the Lebanese internal intelligence and security bodies.

This would in effect be a replay of the events encountered throughout Lebanon’s recent past in which untraceable explosions ripped through the cities and towns of the country creating sectarian fears and suspicions, in which Syrian supported Palestinian factions infiltrated the country, and in which a destabilized and dangerous internal situation prompted the international community to consent to an enforced Syrian occupation.

Our hope now is that the Lebanese government can successfully downgrade the threat to the UNIFIL 2 troops and thus eliminate a relatively easy and untraceable way to creating instability, while at the same time, we hope that this armed body will be robust enough to aid the Lebanese Army in its enforcement of the government’s will over the entirety of Lebanon’s territory." (Blacksmith Jade, 8/31/06).

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Breaking News: UNIFIL Attacked in Roadside Bomb!

A UNIFIL armored vehicle belonging to the Spanish contingent was targeted by a roadside bomb today. So far, sources in Lebanon have reported 5 dead and 3 wounded. The explosion occurred near the village of Khiam, in southern Lebanon.

Speaking on Lebanese television, a spokesperson for UNIFIL described the incident as carrying very dangerous implications.

Although various news services have so far confirmed that the source of the explosion was not a mine, there have been conflicting reports as to whether it was a roadside bomb or a suicide bomber. Lebanese security services have recently been reporting their belief that the explosion might have been caused by a suicide bomber traveling in a car.


Images as seen on Yahoo!News

Friday, June 22, 2007

Video: The Battle for Nahr el Bared!

The Lebanese Army released previously unseen combat footage of the battle at Nahr el Bared, today. It was first aired on Lebanese TV station, LBC. The footage shows Lebanese Army infantry, armored vehicle, air force, naval, special forces, logistics, engineering, and medic units bravely performing duties and defending our nation from the onslaught of terror.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Pictures: LAF Choppers Operating in Nahr el Bared

Lebanese helicopters fly after firing at targets at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon, June 19/20, 2007. (Loay Abu Haykel/Reuters and AFP/Ramzi Haidar)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Meanwhile...


Traces of bullets are seen as fighting continued in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon. The Lebanese army has said it has seized all the main positions of its Islamist foes in the besieged refugee camp exactly a month after a showdown erupted with Fatah al-Islam, (AFP/Jinan Nour Al-Dunia).

Syria Closes Border Crossing

USAToday writes:
Syrian authorities on Wednesday closed a border crossing with northeastern Lebanon without giving a reason, Lebanese security officials said.

The closure of the Qaa-Jousseh crossing left only one land border crossing between the two countries open — the main Beirut-Damascus link at Masnaa in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

Syrian authorities closed two other crossing with northern Lebanon after the May 20 outbreak of fighting in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared where Lebanon troops are battling Fatah Islam militants.

At the time, the Syrians said the two crossings were closed for safety reasons.

Since the Syrian troop withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005 under international pressure, Syria has used the flow of goods and people across the border as a pressure tactic against Lebanon, Lebanese opponents of Damascus have said.
This development comes as the Lebanese daily, An-Nahar, reports that 4 trucks carrying weapons and ammunition and trying to cross from Syria into Lebanon's Bekaa valley were intercepted by a Lebanese Army patrol. The paper reported that the trucks retreated back into Syrian territory. The smuggling attempt was reportedly made near the Dorris checkpoint, close to the city of Baalbek.

The border closure also comes as the Lebanese government continues to present evidence to the international community of Syrian smuggling of arms, supplies, and fighters to insurgents and terrorist cells in Lebanon.

An Arab League committee headed by the League's Secretary General, Amr Moussa, is in Lebanon discussing ways to strengthen the country's border security after Lebanon's acting Foreign Minister, Tarek Mitri, presented the League with proof of Syria's involvement in the various imported insurgencies and terrorist cells in the country. The committee also signaled its intent at trying its hand, again, at resolving the country's political deadlock. Amr Moussa's previous attempts at the endeavor finally resulted in his visiting Damascus only to declare that his hands were tied.

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From the comments section:

This is first and foremost a signal to the Arab League of what lies ahead if it endorses any motions towards further controls over the Syrian-Lebanese border.

Despite Arab diplomats' notoriously circular language, the Saturday statement on Lebanon to have come out of the Arab League wasn't as bad as it might have sounded. The Arabs' decision to form a "delegation to consult with Lebanese authorities as well as regional and int'l parties" - the delegation began meeting with Lebanese officials today - is something I would've thought unneccessary given the fact that the Arabs were already presented with the Lebanese government's evidence relating to the smuggling of weapons and fighters by the Syrian regime. Nevertheless, their statement highlighted the fact that, "the contacts will shed light on terrorism, crimes, assassinations, arms trafficking and infiltration of armed men that Lebanon has been subjected to." It may not seem like much, but when looked through the lense of the League's past impotence(s), it comes out as a significant step - something the regime in Syria is all too aware of.

Perhaps more importantly, however, was this quote from a Naharnet article on the League's Saturday statement: "The Arab ministers also urged help for Lebanon to control its border with Syria," which might have driven the point home in case the Syrians missed it:

Help...Lebanon....control...border...Syria.

The message was sent, and Syria wasted no time in replying:

Statement on Saturday, Rockets into Israel on Sunday, Border closure on Wednesday.



As for the flow of weapons, a Syrian closure of border crossings will not mean that the same soldiers preventing Lebanese goods from reaching Arab markets will not allow Syria's intelligence agencies to funnel crates of ammunition and weaponry to their subordinates in Lebanon when noone's looking. And if some of those subordinates find themselves in a bind, theres no limit as to what the creative mind is capable of accomplishing!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Pictures: LAF Tanks Operating in Nahr el Bared

A flash is seen as a Lebanese Army tank fires at a building during fighting in the Palestinian Nahr el-Bared refugee camp near Tripoli, Lebanon, Monday, June 18, 2007.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Two more soldiers died today defending our right to live in a country free of terror and tyranny.

Images as seen on Yahoo!News.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Video: Hunting for Hizballah

The BBC 2's This World program tries its hand at documenting the "Hizballah phenomenon". The video goes on a journey across Lebanon, visiting Hizballah-controlled areas and presenting the viewer with a dual narration, the BBC correspondent "gives the facts" while his driver Daoud (or Crazy-D) adds color with a personalized (of course biased) "local take" on the events and environment captured in the film.

I'll save discussion of the videos for the comments section, so give the videos a look and tell us what you think.







Sunday, June 17, 2007

Breaking News: Palestinian Group Fires Rockets From Lebanon Into Israel

Update: Lebanese Army Uncovers Rocket Primed for Firing

Sources in Lebanon have revealed that the Lebanese Army has defused a 107 mm rocket primed for firing at Israel. The rockets were found in the same area as others launched at Israel today. Earlier reports had suggested that these rockets had been fired at the border town of Metulla, those reports have now been revoked.

The Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. reported that the Lebanese Army is in pursuit of a white mercedes suspected of carrying militants responsible for the first attack. News reports indicate that the perpetrators have attempted to flee into fields and orchards in the area.

Reporting on statements made by officials close to Israel's PM, the Jerusalem Post reports:

Israel will show restraint in its response to a rocket attack on northern Israel, an official traveling with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday.

"This is an attempt to provoke Israel into a response," the official said. "Israel will not succumb to this provocation but will monitor the situation carefully."

Sources in Lebanon also reported Israeli tank fire into the Shebaa Farms region. The shelling targeted uninhabited areas.

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Rockets Hit Kiryat Shmona

Ha'aretz reports:

"There were four or five rockets fired into northern Israel," the security source said. According to Channel 10, some of the rockets fell inside Lebanese territory, including one that struck next to a UNIFIL base in the area.

Kiryat Shmona Mayor Haim Barbivai called for a tough response from both Israel and the Lebanese government.

The Jerusalem Post writes:

The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) reported that the rockets were launched by a Palestinian group, while Lebanese television said that the rockets were fired from the Lebanese village of Taibeh.

UNIFIL and LAF troops set up checkpoints throughout southern Lebanon in an attempt to capture the perpetarators of the attack, Channel 2 reported.

Lebanese news website, Libnanews, described the area from which the rockets as being a "Palestinian controlled-area" between Kfar Kila and Aadasieh, in the Marjayoun district.

Palestinian groups operating in the area from which the rocket launches took place are known to have strong links (training, intelligence, supply, funding, and instructions) with Syrian intelligence agencies. One such group, the PFLP-GC maintains two bases in Lebanon, outside the Palestinian camps to which most other groups limit their activities.

Tayyar.org, the official website of the FPM, quotes local residents of the area from which the rockets were fired as describing the vehicle in which perpetrators got away in as being of a Japanese make. Meanwhile news services in Lebanon have reported that security services are looking for two cars matching descriptions given to them by local residents.

Hizballah has denied any involvement in the incident.

In Israel no injuries were reported as a result of the attack as one rocket landed in an industrial zone of the city [of Kiryat Shmona] and another hit an open field. There has been no general alarm sounded and residents have not been requested to enter their bomb shelters.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Vote Now: International Monitors on our Borders

I think I've been running away from the truth. Just last week I was still contacting pro-Hizballah/anti-government blogs and suggesting ways in which we could exchange ideas and try to bridge the ever-widening gap that is plaguing Lebanese society today (my offers were rejected). When the NBN anchor-woman story broke, I refused to put it up thinking that it would only make a bad situation worse (I have to say, though, I am extremely impressed by the very calm street reaction in the wake of the NBN 'leak'). And today, as I was preparing this post and going over the result of last week's Blacksmiths of Lebanon poll, I still couldn't believe that there were people who were still voting 'No' on the question of Syria's involvement in any one of the many terrorist bombings, assassinations, and insurgencies in the country - even while our acting Foreign Minister was presenting facts and evidence to that effect!

The truth is that our society is in a severe crisis, one that continues to be made worse by unrelenting campaigns of disinformation and mind-boggling propaganda that is swallowed up by each party's respective audience. If a soundbite conforms to one's already present political beliefs and loyalties, then it is good (no matter its 'truthiness'), if it doesn't then it sure is false or part of an opposing propaganda campaign - take for example one commentator who referred to Hizballah's kidnapping of three members of the country's ISF, yesterday, as 'benign' and 'being blown out of proportion for political reasons'. Funny, it was my impression that no one was above the law, or above kidnapping the law. Unfortunately, that is the state of the country.

And so we come to the breakdown of the last week's Blacksmiths of Lebanon poll results. For every voter, of the 197 who voted, who cast a vote absolving Syria of any responsibility for the death and carnage in the country, there were nine clearly pointing the finger at Syria. Ninety percent of those nine blaming it for both the bombings and the imported insurgencies in the camps.

So despite that 10% maybe I'm wrong, maybe there still is a hope that we can unite behind the underlying truth that we are a country under attack and that if we are to come out victorious we have to unite. The reprecussions of allowing the propaganda campaigns to take over could, afterall, be devastating.

In replying to another commentator's question as to why the government doesn't simply go to the UNSC with its evidences, a glimpse of the devastation that propaganda could precipitate was revealed. My response went something like this:
...

Although we know that Syria is behind all these attacks, its allies in Lebanon will continue to work against any attempts to hold that country accountable. In presenting this evidence [eventually to the UN] , we should expect nothing less than a full mobilization of the opposition masses under the mantra that this "corrupt, Zionist-sponsored government is trying to pull Lebanon into war against Syria under Western orders".

That is to say, Hizballah and the rest of the pro-Syrians will launch a very real attack on the state, similar to the Jan 23rd one, on the basis of the propaganda and disinformation those groups feed their citizenry.

So we have to be careful. We have to present it to our Arab "bretheren", even though we shouldn't need to, we have to elicit support from all quarters of the Arab and Islamic world because at the end of the day that is the angle from which Syria and its allies will try to counter our attempts at defending ourselves.
And so, as we mentioned in our earlier post, the government should and will take this evidence to Arab League (it already did), to the OIC, to the UN and to the UNSC. In Lebanon there have already been calls by some groups for the government to present the evidence as part of an official complaint against Syria. In this week's Blacksmiths of Lebanon poll, we explore the possibility of the government using this evidence to officially request the placing of International Monitors along the country's borders with Syria.

Let us know what you think by voting and don't forget to post any comments, suggestions, or complaints about our poll series in this post. We're always looking for ideas for new polls so don't be shy about making suggestions.

Assad Diplomacy

Friday, June 15, 2007

Presenting our Case

Today Lebanon takes to the Arab League concrete proof of Syria's involvement in every aspect of the ongoing terror campaign that has killed and maimed members from every walk of life and every religious creed in the country.

As the foreign ministers of the Arab League meet for an emergency session in Cairo today, Lebanon's acting Foreign Minister, Tarek Mitri, will present documents - including photographs and confessions - attesting to the undeniable links between Syrian intelligence services and a number of terror cells (including Fatah al Islam) busted in the country over the past week and months. The evidence will also point to active Syrian complicity in the smuggling of fighters and weapons across Lebanon's border, as well as Syrian intelligence services' active engagement in the planning and coordinating of bomb attacks in the country.

Lebanon's presentation to the Arab League should and will constitute a first step in an altered dynamic within which Lebanon will deal with the Syrian regime. After the Arab League there will be the OIC, and after that, the UN and the UNSC. The end goal being the placement of International Monitors on our borders with Syria.

The presentation will also dictate the terms under which Lebanon's government and parliamentary majority should deal with the offshoots of the Syrian regime in the country.

As I was typing this post the Lebanese Forces website reported that France's foreign minister had formally canceled the informal talks his country had offered to host between the various political players in the country. Another news flash on the Naharnet news website reported the kidnapping of three ISF personnel by Hizballah militants in the Bir al Abed southern suburb of Beirut, the patrol in which the three were traveling was reportedly intercepted by armed Hizballah members who stripped the security personnel of their weapons, interrogated them for an hour, and then released them. Meanwhile in Nahr el Bared today, four soldiers were killed by a booby-trapped corpse left by Fatah al Islam militants.

These events today, along with the assassination of anti-Syrian MP Walid Eido earlier this week, speak to a truth that underlies the internal situation in Lebanon today. Lebanon is not a country divided between two equally legitimate political factions. It is a country paralyzed by the actions of a group which operates outside the constitutional institutions of the country (read Hizballah), a group which imports and implements orders from Syria and Iran at the expense of the blood of Lebanon's citizens (read Hizballah, Amal, and the rest of the Syria's allies in the country who have at every turn attempted to provide cover for and detract blame from the militants who continue to kill our soldiers in the north), a group which stands idly by (and even seeks to benefit from) the assassination of our ministers and MPs, and a group which has been engaged in the worst kind of disinformation and propaganda campaign, dismissing any and all accountability in its reporting as well as in its actions.

No Lebanon is not a country with two equally legitimate factions, it is a country under attack both from the inside and the outside. While some work to establish viable defenses against these attacks, others work to undermine the state through which these defenses can function.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Playing by the Rules

Two days ago, I was in distress.

I called a number of very close friends of mine who had confirmed their flights to Lebanon and I told them the situation looked bad. When they quizzed me as to what exactly had tipped the scale of my reasoning from controlled analysis - throughout three weeks of bombs, smuggling of weapons and fighters across the Syrian border, an ongoing insurgency in Nahr el Bared, and attempts to ignite it in other camps in the country - to simple unease I couldn't provide them with a solid answer. The only thing I could provide them with was a somewhat abstract overview of the overall situation.

As the day went on I tried to rationalize this feeling, and commenting on fellow blogger Failasoof's post about a rally for the Army held in the northern city of Tripoli, I wrote:

The Syrians, who are undeniably behind this mess, usually leave a door open to a minimal solution after they create a crisis, they do this in order to put on a show for foreign diplomats to show them that they can contain unfortunate situations in Lebanon (situations which they themselves bring about) if they are engaged on their own terms. In this case they seem to be augmenting the crisis, a bad sign.

Speaking to another close friend, and former co-contributor, I went over an old post of his and examined how the somewhat abstract Principles of the Alawite Regime were being turned into destructive realizations:
  • No Principle (when the situation requires)
  • Create the fire then sell the water
  • Defeat is victory
  • Always negotiate on the verge of the abyss
  • There are no 'burned' cards
  • The regime never fights, others fight for it
  • Survival is revival
And while the Lebanese had been living with the repercussions of this modus operandi for decades now* it was the fact that they had not even tried to sell the water to the fire they had started in Lebanon, that obviously worried me**.

Then came yesterday, the bomb that rattled the ground and the assassination that shook a nation. Member of Parliament Walid Eido, a legal expert, former judge, and one of the most influential legislators within the Future Movement had been struck down by a car bomb. The cold implications of the 'hit' were many. This was the first assassination of a member of the predominantly Sunni Future Movement since the death of Rafic Hariri, it was a hit against a man who was pivotal in the drafting and passing of a Chapter 7 UNSC Resolution to try and judge the perpetrators of that crime, and it was the only real response to a superficial overture made by the leader of that party, and son of the assassinated former Premier, to Syria's allies in the country.

The hit came after the French and Saudi announcement of informal talks among the country's different political groups. A little get together in which the French would let each party know that if they wanted to play Lebanese politics under an umbrella different from Syria's, they could be accommodated. The effectiveness of the line was immediately evidenced by a beaming Aoun, just returned from a visit to the French capital and proclaiming to anyone who would listen that "things would now be different!"

Not so fast, said Syria yesterday...not so fast.

And so, while Syria's Lebanese quislings continue to utter such senseless words as Internationalization and National Unity Government***, while Lebanon's political debutantes continue to await their cup of coffee, and while foreign diplomats continue to trip over themselves in their rush for public humiliation in Damascus, the regime in Syria will continue to play the game by their rules.

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*For example, the regime has struck alliances with destructive elements across all sectarian, religious, and ideological lines, operating in Lebanon. In this day and age we have the Shiite fundamentalist Hizballah, the Sunni fundamentalists in the Palestinian camps, and the variety of secular (e.g, SSNP) or clan-based (e.g., Suleiman Frangieh's Zogharta-based Marada) pro-Syrian groups operating in Lebanon.

**Don't get me wrong. There is no prouder moment for me than to have added my voice to those chanting for freedom from Syria's tyranny in the Cedar Revolution. Any regular reader of this blog will be all too familiar with my deep desire and advocacy of Lebanon being able to stand up on its two feet and confront Syria's interference in the country as a sovereign nation and within the international networks and institutions that make up the international community of sovereign states.

***While their backers in Syria continue to kill off, one by one, the members of the country's legitimate Parliamentary majority (reduced from 71 to 68 - out of 128, i.e. four left to go for the Syrians), and the members of the country's Cabinet (one member of which was assassinated, another member of which had his offices attacked the same day of that assassination, and three members of which were in the vicinity of the most recent assassination, yesterday) - the loss of one more member would cause the collapse of the government under the constitution.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Voice that Awoke a City and United a Country

While the body of yet another Member of Lebanon’s Parliament, and proponent of Lebanon’s freedom, is laid to rest, the voice of Walid Eido will carry on, bringing forth Lebanon’s new dawn and awakening those who have closed their eyes to the reality of our struggle in order to return to their subservient sleep.

His was the voice that awoke Beirut to the reality of the poison running through its veins and arteries, a poison that struck at the heart of the city on February 14th, 2005. His was the voice that sounded the rallying call that brought forth the country’s masses from the cities, the mountains, the valleys, and the coast. A man of small physical stature, his spirit looms large over the masses of the Cedar Revolution, over those whose voices have been added to the chorus he started. Before Saad, Saniora, and Fatfat, came Eido, carrying the flag of independence, and leading the charge to sovereignty.

In the wake of the remarkable changes this country continuous to undertake since the launch of the Cedar Revolution, it is easy for us to forget the conditions under which the country’s citizens and politicians lived and operated; to forget the psychological prisons into which our oppressors sought to lock us; to forget the whispers which were replaced with shouts, screams and chants; to forget the checkpoints, land confiscations, wiretaps, and open threats with which a very real occupation was enforced. That was the environment which Eido overcame to sound out the call to all Lebanese to stand up together and Resist Syria; to hold it, finally and ultimately, accountable for the injustices it sought to perpetrate on this nation of the brave and the strong.

Walid Eido will forever be remembered for his bravery, for being the first man to sound out the call of Enough!, for extending his hand to all Lebanese and bringing them together in a revolution of the street, and a liberation of the land and the mind.

His body will be missed, but his voice will always ring loud and true.


Breaking News: Walid Eido Assassinated!



News services in Lebanon are reporting a massive explosion along Beirut's seafront avenue. The explosion is said to have taken place at approximately 5:46 pm (local time) in the Manara district of the city, near the Military Bath, the Beirut Sporting Basketball Stadium, the Long Beach Hotel and Resort, and the Nejmeh Football club field.

News services have confirmed the death of Future Movement MP Walid Eido in the explosion!!

Preliminary reports indicate the number of casualties to be ten dead and twenty wounded. Two of the MP's bodyguards as well as his son Khaled were reported among the dead.

Also reported among the dead were two players on the Nejmeh Football Club, Hussein Dakmak and Hussein al Amin. Dakmak had also played for Lebanon's national team on several occassions.

PSP MPs Akram Chehayeb and Marwan Hamadeh (himself the survivor of an assassination attempt within 400 meters of this one) have confirmed the death of Future Movement MP Walid Eido.

The PSP and Future Movement are both members of the anti-Syrian March 14th alliance which has sought to reinstate Lebanese sovereignty after 15 years of Syrian occupation and in the wake of the assassination of Future Movement founder and former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. The MP's have blamed Syria for this latest assassination and have labelled it as a "Syrian Answer" to the establishment of the International Tribunal to try those accused of killing the former Prime Minister and 22 others on February 14th, 2005.

The location of the explosion is popular with afternoon strollers and is adjacent to a nearby amusement park and several cafes (in addition to the sports clubs and beaches mentioned earlier). Fellow blogger, Charles Malik, provides a first hand account of the explosion from a cafe less than 50 meters away.


Image as seen on the official website of the Lebanese Forces and Yahoo!News.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Breaking News: Attack in Tripoli

An explosion accompanied with gunfire has been reported in Tripoli, along the coast, possibly against an Army checkpoint there.

Details have emerged revealing that a hand grenade was thrown from a car which refused to stop at an Army checkpoint in the city. Lebanese Army soldiers fired on the car and apprehended at least one culprit.

Clarification and details of the incident.
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Thanks to everyone for your dedicated readership. Starting last Friday the website has been on a reduced updating frequency as the team here at Blacksmiths of Lebanon goes on vacation.

For updates and analysis we recommend you refer to our Lebanese Blogosphere Feed in the sidebar.

Most notably, Anton and Abu Kais report on the arrest of two brothers with intimate ties to Syrian intelligence agencies and who, it has been revealed, facilitated and orchestrated both the fighting in Nahr el Bared and the bombings across the country.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Poll: Blame Syria + Results from Nahr el Bared

It has now been 18 days since a group of Fatah al Islam gunmen ran out of their base in the Nahr el Bared camp and raided a Lebanese Army outpost killing 13 Lebanese soldiers in cold blood. They did this while another group of their gunmen ambushed an Army patrol, killing four soldiers, and while yet another group of them fought a deadly battle with Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces in the streets of the country's capital of the North, Tripoli.

Having been taken by surprise, by the attackers at first and by their allies in the media second, our Army responded valiantly, erecting a siege around the camp and responding forcefully to enemy fire, all the while working to protect the lives of the innocent civilians in the camp, themselves captives of this terrorist cell.

And while our allies delivered supplies to the Lebanese Army and the allies of Syria delivered terror to the neighborhouds of Aschrafieh, Verdun, Aley, Sid el Baucherieh, and Zouk Mosbeh, (other attempts were intercepted by security forces) we asked our readers to vote on the topic of how best to resolve the crisis in Nahr el Bared, in order to best serve Lebanon's interests.

The results of that Blacksmiths of Lebanon poll, which ran for 9 days and gathered 133 votes, aligned an overwhelming 90% of respondents behind a military strike by the Lebanese Army on the Syrian-backed militants in the camp (60% thought the Army should enter the camp and deal with the militants on its own, while 30% thought it should work in collaboration with mainstream Fatah fighters there - the Army has done both, taking on the militants head-on in military battles, while entrusting certain sectors of the camp to mainstream Fatah militants).

The vote highlights a rallying of (almost) all Lebanese from across the political spectrum in support of one of the only remaining national institutions to have survived (barely) the crippling assault on the country's institutions. An assault launched by Syria's allies in Lebanon, and which has so far entailed a running series of explosions and political assassinations (the last of which killed Lebanese Minister of Industry, Pierre Gemayel), a full scale war that left over 1,200 Lebanese dead, hundreds of thousands homeless, and cost billions of dollars in damages, a series of strikes and protests aimed at paralyzing the Cabinet and the office of the Prime Minister, a lockout of MP's from the country's Parliament, and most recently a running insurgency in at least one Palestinian Refugee Camp.

But while in every case the trail of blood, chaos, and terror has led to Syria, some in Lebanon have continued to cast doubt on the mounting evidence, preferring instead to rely on personal biases and begrudgements (what I refer to as the culture of "nkeyeh") and a misconstruction of past events and scenarios*.

And so, with that lenghty introduction I bring you this week's Blacksmiths of Lebanon poll, on whether or not Syria should be blamed for some, all, or none of the crises gripping the country.

Every vote counts, so make sure you let us know what you think and remember to leave a comment or two with your suggestions, complaints, theories, or opinions.
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*Simon Abirilia, the head of the National Gathering opposition movement loyal to former prime minister Michel Aoun, claims that the Islamist threat in Lebanon has been greatly exaggerated by the Syrians in order to show the United States "that Lebanon has not reached a sufficient stage of maturity to govern itself and that the permanent presence of Syrian forces remains necessary . . . the goal of Syria is to be recognized by Washington as the guarantor of stability in Lebanon." (January 5th, 2000)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Breaking News: Blast Hits Zouk-Kaslik

The explosion occured at approximately 9:20 pm local time, in the Zouk-Mosbeh center in an industrial zone in the Adonis / Zouk-Mosbeh area. A fire is now burning in the location of the blast, emergency units are responding.

News services in Lebanon are now reporting the death of Pierre Dagher, the owner of an oxygen tank store, and 4 injuries, 3 Syrian labourers and 1 Lebanese member of the Civil Defence Forces battling the fire.

The Lebanese Red Cross also reported that rescue efforts had been initially hampered by the fire and heavy smoke in the center.

The explosion is believed to have been caused by a car bomb, according to news services in Lebanon.

The Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation has reported that the blast occured at an oxygen tank factory, causing many of those tanks to explode as the fire rages.

Sources have reported that Civil Defense crews have brought the fire in the oxygen factory under control and are battling it in the paint factory to which it has spread.


Picture as seen on Yahoo!News.

Breaking News: Today's Stories

A soldier in the Lebanese Army was killed today in fighting at the Nahr el Bared camp. We salute him as a fallen hero. The official death toll since the fighting began rests at 49 Lebanese Army soldiers (17 of whom were ambushed by Fatah al Islam fighters) and 38 Fatah al Islam militants.

Lebanese Security Services discover three booby-trapped vehicles in Bar Elias, after arresting 2 Syrians and an Iraqi found in possession of bomb-making equipment and other weapons in the same area yesterday.

Hizballah has yet to comment on the interception of a truck loaded with weapons and thought to have been brought in from Syria, and operated and escorted by the group. Leading Lebanese daily An-Nahar has charged that the weapons were enroute to pro-Syrian factions in Palestinian Refugee Camps throughout Lebanon, meant to aid them launch attacks against the Lebanese Army and deflect pressure from the Syrian-backed Fatah al Islam group currently under siege by the Army in the Nahr el Bared camp.

The charges bring to light a dangerous complicity, for Hizballah, in the attacks on the country's Armed Forces by Syrian-backed groups after its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, attempted to shield the Fatah al Islam group from a military assault at the start of the crisis.

A sound grenade was thrown from a car in the Furn el Shubak suburb of Beirut, in the early hours of the morning, leading to no injuries but some damage to cars. Meanwhile a battery and a timing device were found in a plastic bag at the Aintoura school, close to the port-city of Jounieh, causing panic among the students and staff.

The photo shows Army and Internal Security Forces explosives experts after having defused a bomb, on Wednesday, in the southern coastal town of Tyre. The bomb was the first to be found in UNIFIL's zone of operation, although the area where it was found fell under the purview of Lebanese security agencies. (LF official website)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Breaking News: Bomb Defused, Weapons Intercepted

Quick Updates:
  • Sources in Lebanon have revealed that State Security agents have broken up a terrorist cell near the town of Zahleh. According to some sources the cell was made up of three fundamentalist Sunni individuals, according to all sources, they were in possession of large quantities of weapons and explosives. The suspects are now being interrogated.

    Zahleh is a predominantly Christian town in the country's Bekaa valley. It is only a few minutes' drive from the Syrian border and the main highway to Damascus, while also lying just to the south of the city of Baalbek (where a truck carrying weapons was intercepted late last night - see below for details).

  • More on the truck from YaLibnan:
    Security officials told the Associated Press the truckload of arms belonged to Hezbollah.

    They said the shipment of Grad rockets and ammunition for automatic rifles and machine guns was seized late Tuesday at a random army checkpoint at Douriss near Baalbek, a Hezbollah stronghold in east Lebanon's Bekaa valley.

    Six Hezbollah members in the truck were let go but the confiscated weapons were taken to the nearby Ablah army barracks, the officials said.

    The shipment's destination was not known. But An Nahar said the arms cache was planned for use in warfronts to be opened elsewhere in Palestinian refugee camps after attempts to start a warfront at the southern refugee camp of Ein al-Helweh failed.
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Quick Updates:

  • UNIFIL's spokeswoman announced that the area in which the bomb was defused today fell under the purview of the Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces (ISF) and that UNIFIL had full confidence in the Lebanese Army and ISF's ability to provide security to the area.

  • Sources in Lebanon have linked Hizballah to the weapons truck intercepted at an Army checkpoint near the city of Baalbek. Quoting LBC, the official website of the Lebanese Forces also revealed that eyewitnesses had reported that several civilian cars had been acting as escorts for the truck and that at the time of this interception, the occupiers of those cars had entered into a verbal dispute with Army units involved in the interception.

    This news comes as other sources claimed that the weapons were en route to Syrian-backed factions in Palestinian camps with the aim of igniting conflict there and allowing the current crisis in Nahr el Bared to spread to other camps and parts of the country. The region around Baalbek is know for its heavy Hizballah presence.
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News services in Lebanon have revealed that the Lebanese Army has defused a bomb set to explode in the southern coastal town of Tyre. The bomb, according to news services, consisted of two kilograms of TNT explosives placed inside an infant milk formula container and augmented with a timer set to go off at 11:15 am. It was placed near an entrance to the city's popular Rest House along the beach. Perhaps more significantly, despite a series of bombs and explosions throughout the country in the past two weeks, this would be the first to be found in the security zone mandated to UNIFIL forces in Lebanon.

In other news, the Lebanese daily, An-Nahar, reported today the seizure of a truckload of weapons after it had crossed into Lebanon from Syria. According to the paper, the Lebanese Army stopped the truck at a checkpoint near the city of Baalbeck and arrested the driver as he attempted to flee.

This comes one day after the paper reported that senior Lebanese Army officers had informed the Prime Minister and Cabinet of the smuggling of weapons and fighters into Lebanon, from Syria.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) reported today that Lebanese Army and ISF units had uncovered a large weapons and explosives cache in the home of a man suspected of links to Fatah al Islam militants and residing in the norther region of Akkar. According to reports, the cache contained over 200 kilograms of explosives!

The Akkar region lies along the border with Syria in northern Lebanon, and is directly adjacent to the Nahr el Bared Refugee Camp where Lebanese Army units have been battling Fatah al Islam militants for 16 days now.



Smoke rises from the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon June 5, 2007
(REUTERS/Jerry Lampen )

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Islamic Disengagement Force Deploys

In the Ein el Helweh camp, adjacent to the city of Saida in south of the country, the 'Islamic Disengagment Force' was reported to have deployed.

The force, the formation of which was generally rejected by mainstream Palestinian factions in the camp, was pushed for by Syrian-backed Palestinian factions and is seen as providing cover for the 60 or so members of the Syrian-backed Jund al Sham group which launched attacks on Lebanese Army positions in the Taamir district of the city of Saida, directly adjacent to the Ein el Helweh refugee camp.

Naharnet writes,

"The Palestinian source, who had taken part in negotiations with the Saniora government, criticized the disengagement force in Ein al-Hilweh saying its fighters are actually 'saving the necks of Jund al-Sham terrorists.'

'By separating them from the army, they are actually protecting them. The disengagement force is the practical application of coexistence with terrorists. If we coexist with them in Ein al-Hilweh, some one will say lets coexist with the others (Fatah al-Islam) in Nahr al-Bared.'

The PLO supports the Beirut government in its approach to "finish" Fatah al-Islam. The source, however, believes that 'as long as Jund al-Sham survives in Ein al-Hilweh, Fatah al-Islam might survive in Nahr al-Bared.'"
The Force is made up of 40 militants: 10 from the Asbat al Ansar group, 10 from a coalition of Palestinian factions in the camp, 10 from an islamic group calling itself Ansar Allah, and 10 from the mainstream Fatah movement. This according to the official website of the Lebanese Forces.


Palestinian gunmen of Ansar Allah in the refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh, Lebanon on Tuesday, June 5, 2007.

(AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)
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