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Friday, May 09, 2008

Video: Hezbullah shuts down pro-government TV

There is officially a war on in Lebanon. At least eleven people have been killed in fighting today as Hezbullah and its allies in Amal have gained control of some neighborhoods in Beirut. Among other things, Hezbullah and its allies have succeeded in shutting down the pro-government Future TV network. Let's go to the videotape to see that, and then I will have more.

Beirut Spring has some pictures taken at the ransacked Future TV offices, which offer proof that it's Syria and Iran that are behind what's going on in Beirut today. The areas that the Shiites control are in the Muslim sectors of Beirut. Here are more details.
Shi'ite opposition gunmen seized control of large areas of Beirut's Muslim sector from Sunni foes loyal to the US-backed government on Friday, in street battles that left 11 dead, security officials said.

Lebanese troops began taking up positions in some Sunni neighborhoods abandoned by the pro-government groups, but remained outside of the clashes, while elsewhere well-equipped Hizbullah fighters marched through Sunni neighborhoods.

With top leaders Saad Hariri of the Sunnis and Druse leader Walid Jumblatt besieged in their residences in Muslim western Beirut, officials of the pro-government majority called an emergency meeting of legislators in a mountain town in the Christian heartland northeast of Beirut, said LBC TV, a pro-government Christian station.

Prime Minister Fuad Saniora was holed up at his office along with several ministers in downtown Beirut, which is heavily protected by troops and police. [You may recall that I have said on several occasions that Saniora should make peace with Israel and stop pretending that there's a dispute between us and him. Instead, he is now left to fight Hezbullah alone. CiJ] A Hizbullah protest encampment that has been there for 17 months near his office has not made any move against the complex.

"Even if Hizbullah 's militia took everything we remain the constitutional authority," vowed Cabinet member Ahmed Fatfat, who said the prime minister and some ministers were staying at the government compound. "The legitimacy is with the government," he told Al-Arabiya television from the building. [Big deal. That's totally meaningless right now. CiJ]

Jumblatt, speaking from his residence to LBC television, said he will stay put under the protection of the Lebanese army. He said he was ready for dialogue with the opposition but warned Hizbullah : "no one can take over Beirut unilaterally ... No party however militarily powerful can finish off the other one." [Want to bet? CiJ]


In a sign of the collapse of the pro-government forces in the face of the onslaught by the Iranian-backed Shi'ite Hizbullah and Amal groups in the Lebanese capital's Muslim sector, the TV station of Hariri's Future Movement was forced off the air.

The offices of the affiliated al-Mustaqbal newspaper in the coastal neighborhood of Ramlet el-Bayda were also set ablaze by gunmen and white smoke could be seen billowing from the building. The army subsequently took over the area and firefighters extinguished the blaze.

Lebanese troops were also evacuating the staff of the TV station's terrestrial and satellite studios in the Kantari area of western Beirut, said Nadim Mounla, the station's chief. He said gunmen massed near the station and "asked through the army to close down or it will be destroyed."

The army has largely avoided getting involved in the street battles, preferring to remain above the political fray for fear of being dragged into the conflict. The institution could break up on sectarian lines if it takes on the powerful Hizbullah group or any major party.

A rocket-propelled grenade slammed into the fence of the heavily protected residence of Hariri in the neighborhood of Koreitem in Muslim western Beirut, security officials said. Hariri is believed to be in the residence.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press, said Friday a total of 11 people have been killed and more than 20 wounded. On Thursday, they had reported four killed and eight wounded, suggesting most of the casualties occurred in clashes overnight.

Shi'ite gunmen roamed unopposed through the deserted streets of neighborhoods once dominated by supporters of Hariri and the government.

About 100 Hizbullah gunmen in identical camouflage uniforms wearing baseball caps and black flak jackets marched down the Muslim sector's main commercial Hamra Street, a Sunni area, and took up positions on corners and sidewalks. They stopped the few cars braving the empty streets and checked their trunks. [This is the price for the world not having the fortitude to disarm Hezbullah two years ago. CiJ].

Dozens of fighters from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, a Hizbullah ally, also appeared in the streets off Hamra, some masked and carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Shops in the normally bustling commercial district were closed save for a few pharmacies and grocery stores.

"We entered Karakol Druse. There is no Jumblatt and no Hariri here," a Shi'ite gunman in another Beirut neighborhood told Associated Press Television News, referring to the top Sunni leader and his ally, Druse leader Walid Jumblatt.

"We entered the neighborhood. They threw away their weapons and ran," said another gunman as one of his colleagues tore down a poster of Hariri.
It certainly sounds like Hezbullah is likely to control the entire country soon. Lots more details at Gateway Pundit. Noah Pollak has also been on top of the story and David Hazony is as well.

Now Lebanon reports that the Saudis have called for an Arab foreign ministers' meeting on Lebanon.
“In light of the dangerous escalation of the situation on the Lebanese scene, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia supports holding an urgent and extraordinary meeting of the Arab League Ministerial Council in Cairo to discuss the Lebanese crisis and its fallout,” a Foreign Ministry official was quoted by the state news agency SPA as saying.

The call was issued overnight as Lebanon teetered on the brink of civil war with the capital wracked by fighting between militants of the Hezbollah opposition and Sunnis loyal to the government, which is also supported by Saudi Arabia.

Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported that Saudi Arabia has begun evacuating its nationals from Lebanon.

It quoted Saudi Ambassador in Beirut Abdul Aziz al-Khoja as saying the embassy evacuated more than 70 Saudi citizens to Syria by road on Thursday and would try to evacuate more on Friday.

“Since the tensions began, we have been sending SMS messages to the mobile phones of Saudi citizens asking those wishing to leave Lebanese territories to coordinate with the embassy in Beirut,” he said.
I don't believe an Arab foreign ministers' meeting will go anywhere. The only thing they can agree on is hating Israel.

Ya Libnan points out that what's going on in Beirut is really a proxy war for much bigger powers.

In the current context, what is under way is not just a battle for control of one small country, but a wider regional battle between pro-Western and anti-Western forces.

Put starkly, Iran and Syria would regard the containment of Hezbollah as an unacceptable victory for the US and its allies.

Victory for Hezbollah, on the other hand, would be seen in Washington, Paris, Riyadh and Cairo as handing over Lebanon to Iran.

While the central issue is power and the balance of power, there is a dangerous sectarian undercurrent.

The politics are complicated. The stakes are high.
But resolving the 'Palestinian problem' will resolve all of the Middle East's problems, won't it?


At 6:53 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Pay no attention to the wizard behind the violence in Lebanon - Iran. Every one knows its all the Jews' fault.


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