Cabinet convened today in the presidential palace in Baabda. After the meeting, Information Minister Bassem al-Sabaa told reporters cabinet approved a proposal by Interior Minister Michel al-Murr to charge the army with undertaking the needed arrangements handling security in the Bekaa Valley for three months starting from today. This after the country's three top leaders have agreed that Sheikh Sobhi Toufaily's rallies had reached an alarming stage. Sabaa quoted President Elias al-Hrawi as saying during cabinet's session that closing the area was unacceptable. Hrawi was also quoted by Sabaa as saying the call to disobedience and to prevent ministers and deputies from visiting the Baalbeck-Hermel area is rejected action aimed at hijacking the whole area. But Sabaa said three ministers from the Bekaa, including Defense Minister Mohsen Dalloul, abstained from voting on the 30-member cabinet decision giving the army full control of the region.
Toufaily had declared the Baalbeck-Hermel area off the limits to deputies and ministers. The move puts all police and security forces under the command of army chief General Emile Lahhoud. It also allows the army to carry out searches and arrests, prohibit street demonstrations and declare curfews without referring to the government. The army will thus be given free hand in the area. But Sheikh Sobhi Toufaily will not be pursued for past violations of the law. The decision was delayed by House Speaker Nabih Berri's opposition to any decision that would put the army in direct confrontation with the Bekaa clans, most of whom are armed. During today's session, Berri called on the government to focus on the people's more immediate needs and gave a cautious approval to the move. The government had ordered army reinforcements to the Bekaa on July 4, after Toufaily launched his civil disobedience campaign known as the hunger revolution.
Toufaily had claimed that his revolution was prompted by government negligence of the Bekaa. His movement demands free health care and schooling as well as development projects to be implemented in the region.
House Speaker Nabih Berri today held his weekly consultations with deputies. After their meeting, the deputies quoted Berri as saying the government measures to deal with Sheikh Sobhi Toufaily's civil disobedience movement should work for the people and not against them. He was also quoted as saying that security measures in the Bekaa should be accompanied by the implementation of development projects in the area. In another development, the House Speaker praised the decision of those Arab countries who boycotted the Doha economic conference to be held in Qatar next week which Israel is expected to attend.
Israeli warplanes this afternoon raided the Naameh Hills south of the capital. There were no immediate reports of casualties in the attack. Security sources said two Israeli planes first staged a mock raid and then fired a total of two rockets on the area. They added an Israeli reconnaissance aircraft was still over the area. The raid was confirmed by an Israeli army spokesman in Jerusalem, who said that all planes returned home safely to their bases. The latest Israeli attack on suspected positions of the General Command of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine raised to 77 the number of Israeli air assaults on Lebanon this year.
The five-nation cease-fire panel yesterday called for greater measures to protect civilians being hurt in the conflict between Israel and Hizbullah. The international committee had met yesterday in Naqoura to look into two Lebanese complaints of truce violations by Israel. The committee acknowledged that a shell had damaged a house in Ain Bouswar in Iqlim al-Touffah and called for greater efforts to avoid hitting inhabited areas in the course of military actions. In its final summation, the committee merely called for greater precautions to ensure that civilians are not affected by the placement of "disguised explosive devices", referring to the second complaint filed by Lebanon over Israeli bombs that injured a southern shepherd and killed 35 of his animals at the northern edge of the zone Israel occupies in the South.
The General Labor Confederation today announced a warning strike will be held tomorrow in protest to the difficult living conditions in the country. But the economic and educational committees in the country refused to comply with the strike adding tomorrow will be a normal work day just like any other day. During a press conference held at the GLC headquarters in Beirut, the head of the GLC Ghaneim al-Zoghbi said tomorrow's strike was only a warning strike aimed at pressuring the government to ratify the public sector pay scales draft law. Zoghbi added the move is not directed against the government. He also announced another strike will be held on the 25th and 26th of this month if no solution is reached.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri heads to Vietnam tonight to be able to join tomorrow the conference of French-Speaking Countries. The Francophone meeting will be attended by world leaders and this is the first time that the conference is held in Asia. Hariri is expected to meet French President Jacques Chirac who will also be attending the conference in Hanoi.
The championship of Lebanon in basket ball will continue to be held this evening. Ashabbab-al-Ghbayri will play against Ashabiba-Mizyara, the Mont La Salle against Tadamon-Zouk, and Hikmeh against Entranik.
75 players from eight clubs participated in Lebanon's championship for Kick Boxing which was organized by the Lebanese Union of the game in the Bourj Club. Among the winners was the Lebanese army club who got four gold medals, five silver, and another five Bronze.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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