News from Beirut December 23  1997 ...Search

Three Israeli soldiers wounded in the South

An Israeli officer and two soldiers were wounded early this morning in a bomb attack on the Sojod post just north of the zone Israeli occupies in the South. An Israeli allied militia source said Israeli soldiers sustained serious injuries in the attack by Hizbullah guerrillas. An Israeli army spokesman said one of the three soldiers was seriously hurt and two moderately in the blast.

The spokesman added a second bomb was detonated as another Israeli patrol moved in to rescue the downed soldiers but no casualties were reported in the second bomb attack. Meanwhile, Hizbullah claimed responsibility for the assault which raised to 99 the number of  Israeli soldiers wounded in the South since the beginning of this year.

Hizbullah issued a statement saying the Islamic resistance detonated a bomb near a Zionist patrol on the Rihan-Sojod road, killing and wounding all the members of the patrol. The statement added one hour after the operation, when the enemy brought reinforcement to rescue the casualties, the resistance fired at them. In another development, an Israeli allied militia source said Hizbullah guerrillas launched rocket-propelled grenade attacks on six posts held by Israeli troops and their allied militia.

There were no immediate reports on casualties in those assaults. In another development, Lebanese police said Israeli artillery went into action firing some 50 shells against the Iqlim Al- Touffah mountain area. Two combat helicopters also overflew the Iqlim Al- Touffah valley and the village of Nabatieh.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces today released Wafaa Mohammed Abou Abbas, a Lebanese woman who comes from the village of Blat after a detention that lasted for five days. Her husband Abbas Ali Skainy is still detained.

Lebanon to hold local elections in the near future

During last night's session, parliament approved the holding of a first nationwide round of local elections for 34 years. Under Lebanese law, local elections must take place on all Lebanese territories except those under Israeli occupation and where displaced people have not returned to their homes.

It also requires the government to set a date. In July, parliament decided to delay municipal council and mayoral elections, which last took place in 1963, until April 1999. But in September, the supreme court overturned the decision on an appeal from 14 opposition members of parliament. Before the vote last night, deputies debated suggestions that some municipal councils should be nominated rather than elected. The new law still needs the approval of president Elias Al-Hrawi.

Cabinet meets tonight at Baabda

Cabinet is expected to be in session tonight at the presidential palace in Baabda. Last night's parliamentary vote for holding municipal and mayoral elections will top the agenda of talks. Sources close to the palace say President Elias Al-Hrawi is expected to sign the law which is due to be published in the Lebanese Official Newspaper next Thursday. Cabinet will also discuss issues related to current the situation of the official TV station in Lebanon, Tele Liban. Sources close to Baabda expect cabinet to ratify a draft law which grants Tele Liban a loan from the ministry of information.

Hariri supports parliament's vote on local elections

In side-talks with journalists at the government palace, prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri today expressed support for holding local elections in all parts of Lebanon as soon as possible. Hariri reportedly stressed local elections should be geared to serving the Lebanese people without carrying any political dimension. The premier today held talks with Minister of Administrative Reform Bsahra Merhej. Discussions centered on parliament's ratification of the law of local elections. After the meeting, Merhej told reporters parliament's vote last night was a result of  "interaction".

Hariri later held talks with head of Tele Liban Jean Claude Boulos who was accompanied by information minister Bassem Al-Sabaa. Discussions centered on the law expected to be ratified by cabinet tonight which is related to improving the current situation of the official TV station in Lebanon. The premier also received Minister of Immigrants Affairs Talal Arslan and a delegation from the Saudi-French Bank which newly opened a branch in the country.

Shopping Festival to be held in February

Minister of trade and economy Yassin Jaber and Tourism minister Ncola Fattoush today held a joint press conference announcing a shopping festival will be held in Beirut during the month of February. The conference held at Summerland Hotel was attended by businessmen and representatives of the economic committees in the country. Jaber called on Beirut's Merchants' Association to abide by all cuts and discounts specialized for shopping during this month. Jaber added the work of consumer protection patrols will be activated in February to crack down on violators. Jaber stressed the success of such a festival is a success for all the country.

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