The two Israeli military transport helicopters crash and the high death toll, the worst in the Israeli military history and a grave disaster, as Israeli officials describe it, dominated the front pages editorials in Lebanon. The fact is that the two helicopters were ferrying Israeli soldiers to the occupied security zone in south Lebanon, carrying explosives and ammunitions, and fell down only 8 kms just south of the border with Lebanon, all that has been significantly highlighted in Beirut.
An official of the Hizbullah said yesterday "the collision of the two helicopters was a divine justice. God forgets no one". He said the fact that the helicopters were airlifting troops under cover of darkness and fog, underlined how much the resistance attacks in recent weeks have forced Israel to avoid roads in the south, especially during the daylight.
The Lebanese sources say that the helicopters crash, the most costly for Israel, perhaps were destined to launch new attacks against Lebanon, taking into account the Israeli officials' latest declarations and the loads of the helicopters. The last night crash came after the Israeli public security minister Avigdor Kahalani urged the Likud government to unilaterally withdraw from the occupied security zone, because the 1,200 soldiers there are sitting ducks for the Hizbullah attacks. A debate is simmering in Israel about the value of maintaining the occupation. The yesterday's casualties, more than the resistance could inflict in the last three years, would swing the Israeli public opinion behind Kahalani and others remains to be seen, but it will definitely intensifies the debate. The former Israeli premier Shimon Perez said yesterday "in a last analysing, this tragedy should end and it can't reach an end without Syria. Israel cannot unilaterally withdraw but cannot stay there for ever, we have to have courage and take tough political decisions".
In the south and Bekaa, the people cheerfully celebrated the incident, the news of the crash was announced from loud speakers over the mosques there, and in many villages in south Lebanon the sweets were offered to passers, also joyful shooting in the air continued for half an hour in the Bekaa.
Earlier to the helicopters crash, the Israeli artillery fired hundreds of shells at the western and middle sectors in south and around Nabatieh town also at Iqlim Toffah. The Islamic resistance announced it launched a total of 30 operations against the Israeli forces and the Israeli backed SLA posts, in the occasion of the "Jerusalem Day", a special commemoration of the Israeli seizure of Jerusalem by Israel which is timed during the last week of Ramadan. The Hizbullah termed its operations as a religious and national duty on behalf of Jerusalem.
There are speculations that the violence in south would escalate on the 16th Feb, the 5th anniversary of the assassination of Hizbullah late leader Abbas Mussawi. The large scale artillery duels were considered by Lebanon a violation of the last year's "April Understanding", because the Israeli artillery fire hit civilian areas in south. The Lebanese government decided to lodge a complaint against Israel to the international committee monitoring the ceasefire.
Foreign minister Fares Boueiz warned of an Israeli scheme aims to siege Lebanon through the security and military means, in order to enforce the solutions it has proposed and were rejected by Lebanon. He affirmed that Lebanon rejects to negotiate Israel out of the Madrid frame work and out of the 425 and 242 resolution. He concluded saying "it is time to Israel to learn that if the aggression against Lebanon is easy, the digesting of the Lebanese problem is extremely difficult".
P.Hrawi, at the Iftar he hosted at Baabda palace, said Lebanon will not shake down by the maneuvering, aggressions, proposals, and the solution is only through the implementation of the 425 resolution and the restoration of Lebanon's full sovereignty".
Speaker Nabih Berri did not attend the Iftar held yesterday at the presidential palace in Baabda, Cardinal Sfair also dispatched Bishop Roland Abu Jawdeh instead. Mr Berri boycott of the Iftar drew questions over the widened rift with P.Hrawi, the point now is how could it be resolved and what impacts will it have on the Lebanese politics.
Mr Berri said to have sent an apology ten minutes before the Iftar and he was planning to attend, but after reading the text of the speech of the president, which included sharp remarks against him, he decided not to go. The observers speculate that its time now for Damascus to intervene and halt the friction, and possibly the opportunity of such mediation is during the meeting of the supreme council mid of Feb. P.Hrawi and prime minister Hariri, who is taking a neutral stand, did not give comments on the absence of Mr Berri.
P.Hrawi expressed anger at the public slandering of the government and ridiculed the time spent in parliament to debate the budget. Warns of the danger of dragging the nation into a game of polarisation that would reduce the country to mere sectarian or confessional centres of powers.
We did not stop a war against the citizens and the country to allow war against the state to start. Let there be no false accusations because this is more malicious than corruption itself. How can a state rise when most of those in or out of it seek to destroy it and torpedo the public trust in it.
The consolidation of the democratic life is an urgent need. The state's money is a public money and the dignity of the officials is a national dignity". Mr Berri regarded those remarks directed against him in particular. He had earlier accused the troika of the embezzlement and corruption. The observers see that the rift is unsolvable unless Damascus step in. The constitutional rift is now shifted to a personal feud.
As to the absence of cardinal Sfair, the observers see it's natural, following his remarks and critics against the practices of the authorities, especially the stands he has taken on new year's eve. P.Hrawi, who attended the X-mas sermon at Bkerke, called the religious men not to intervene in politics.
A cold front is gripping Lebanon from the coast to top of the mountains. The rain and snow fell even on low altitudes causing countrywide chaos. The snow fell in Beirut itself for the first time since 1991-1992. Most of the mountainous roads were cut. The storm which struck the east mediterranean basin continues today according to the weather forecast .
The Brazilian foreign minister, now visiting Beirut for 3 days since monday, said yesterday his country "try to make its voice heard in the M.E peace process, it supports strongly the 425 resolution. there are 10 million of Lebanese descent in Brazil including four rulers and some 50 parliamentarians . He has held meetings in Beirut with the foreign minister, P.Hrawi, and with the prime minister. The two foreign ministers signed two agreements, the first is an air transport agreement and the other is an agreement that aims to promote bilateral high education and culture.
The interior minister Michel Murr declared yesterday, after a meeting of the central security council comprising the commanders of the security agencies and the state and military prosecutors, that the night thefts, namely the cars, have increased by about fifty per cent last month if compared to December , despite a general fall in the crimes and the considerable progress in combating the narcotics. He attributed the increase of thefts to the economical and social situation. He urged more night patrols by the police and the army.
He said the American report over the human rights, accusing Lebanon of limiting freedoms, is not factual and impressed by some Lebanese sources which aim to damage the image of government and the security agencies. He said there were delegations from the US and Saudi Arabia, who were checking the security measures at the airport. The measures taken vis a vis the airport security and the combat of drugs are excellent.
Jonathan Winer, a US department official now visiting Beirut, said yesterday ""Lebanon has been crossed off the US list of drug producers but remains a transit point. I am here to discuss what we can do together to combat the drug trafficking, which is a problem beyond the boundaries of Lebanon and the USA and which is a threat to our people and the Lebanese people".
Former prime minister Omar karami said yesterday "no improvement is expected by the government now in charge and the parliamentary budget debates are reiterations to what was said before. Karami, speaking at an Iftar, said he will give the government another year to see it fully meets the pledges it made to develop north of Lebanon. He said " the government did not learn of its mistakes and is leading the country into ruins. There was too much discussion of the budget but not enough measures proposed to ease the economic plight of the people".
The National Gathering lead by Doury Chamoun said after a meeting yesterday that the parliamentary budget debates were theatrical and sort of electoral campaigning festivals. The gathering also said that whether the troika has really died or not, the personalisation of the state institutes became one of the constant invariables of the political system.
Deputy of Sidon Mustafa Saad said P.Hrawi committed two mistakes including the troika rule game and the extension of his mandate. he said he does not adopt any of Rafic Hariri approaches to economy, politics or social affairs. The troika men will not give it up because they have been addicted to it. The prior censor of the media broadcasts is an example of the hegemony of the power.
Deputy of Tripoli Ahmad Karami criticised yesterday the high cost of the reconstruction projects and called for "tightening the belts and be frank to the people. The trade is undermined, the industry is shaky, the largest agriculture sector is dead and the tourism is dormant. The productive sectors are far beyond the forecasts of the budget figures".
Cardinal Sfair, in the fasting message, said "the country will not rise without all its citizens shouldering and the Christians have the major role in each society. Hopefully to overcome the difficulties through the unity of the hearts and the visions. Jesus was a war against corruption. No rise up without values and honest political exercise far away from bribes and packages, malpractices and bargains"
Mufti Mohammed Rashid Kabbani condemned yesterday the scandalous Ramadan tents, especially the advertisements which oversteps the Lebanese boundaries which are affront to the religious feelings. An advertisement for the Khiam El Hana tent, near UNESCO in Beirut, listed the prices as 150 thousand Lira per person, including entertainment by Egyptian and Lebanese performers, with beer, arak and whisky offered during the feast of Ramadan.
The Mufti said the advertisement is a provocation and not only a challenge. He called the authorities to carry on their obligations and protect the sanctity of the religion and the religious occasions. A debate is simmering in Lebanon since the beginning of Ramadan over the tents, as some consider it a contrast to the spirit of Ramadan and some others see it naturally practiced in Cairo or elsewhere. On monday, a sound bomb went off near a tent in Verdun street, aiming to frighten the tent visitors and it interrupted a live FUTURE broadcast of the show.
The State prosecutor Adnan Addoum blasted yesterday the report of the Amnesty International, which criticised Lebanon's security measures and the judicial proceedings. He said the report "distorting the reality" because of either malicious intentions or lack of information. He said "Lebanon respects the constitutional and democratic principles set by the UN chart and the declaration of the human rights. The Lebanese laws do not allow for violating the human rights for the sake of national interests, except in very limited ways which does not violate the basic principles .All the legal proceedings here take place in accordance with the law, therefore claims of the human rights violations are baseless if not to say untrue. The capital punishments are imposed only on the criminals who are dangerous to the society. All the trials take place in public and in the presence of the defense attorneys".
Lebanon has received in less than two weeks three reports all from the USA, one issued by the state department over the human rights, another was by a private firm over the Palestinian resettlement, and the third over the combating of drugs.
Due to the rain and cold some markets observed yesterday retreating shoppers, but in Furn El Chebback and Hamra there were a traffic jam that indicates an unchanged momentum. The airport authority said there is an improvement in the arrival numbers. The merchants propose to make El Fitre holiday for one not three days to take the advantage of the shopping festival. In Kesrouan and Jounieh, the merchants are thinking of incentives to encourage more shoppers and to compete with the other markets. At Furn Chebback there are reported crowded streets. At Burj Hammoud the figure is contrary to Furn Chebback as merchants there say there products are already cheap all the time and more discounts are intolerable.
Economy minister says compulsory car insurance is in order and starting first with trucks insurance.
SODETEL, formed in 1968, which is 50 per cent owned by the ministry of P.T.T, 40 per cent by France Telecom, and 10 per cent by Telecom Italia, is to install telephones pay machines throughout Lebanon, already 18 machines installed in Beirut, Tripoli and Mount Lebanon, and 250 to be installed in 1997. The new pay phones take computerized cards not coins.
The union of parents says the private schools are a lucrative business and are charging unlawful tuitions fees, because the overcrowded public schools leave no alternative to parents. The union says the increase of salaries is used as pretext to raise the tuition fees. The council of ministers is due to discuss the dispute between the parents and schools today.
The agriculture minister Shawki Fakhoury says the increase of his ministry's budget by L.L 15 bn in 1997 will help little his "return to land" policy. The original expenditure of the ministry L.L 33bn has been increased up to L.L 47bn and represents 0.7 per cent of the total budget figures.40 per cent of the Lebanese people proved to make living from this sector, and the workers in the sector represent 7.8 per cent of the active working population in 1992.
The Kataeb deputy president Karim Pakradouni called the government to open a Lebanese embassy in Armenia.
The Allamah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said the marginal disagreements are equivalent to national treason, calling for a freeze of such differences because it looks like disagreeing on the kind of angels. He questioned whether we can solve any problem with such disagreements.
The French ambassador after a visit to Baabda palace says the resumption of the peace talks is excluded in a short time because of the wide gap between Syria and Israel, and there will be no escalation in south because of the role exercised by the monitoring committee.
The labour minister Assaad Hardan discussed with the Lebanese artists delegation their demands namely to have the social security allowances.
The draw for the Volleyball Asian cup championship games scheduled to be played in Lebanon next May took place in Bangkok on Sunday. The draw for the knock out competition divided the nine competing teams into two groups.
Group A include Shabiba Bawshrieh and Japan, Kuwait and Sri Lanka clubs. Group B includes Riyadhi Ghazeer(Lebanon) and the champions of Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Iran and Uzbekstan.
The tenth round of the volleyball national competition in Lebanon ended with Riyadhi Ghazeer still ahead in the leading, and the Shabiba Bawshrieh next in line.
Lebanon universities basketball championship won yesterday by the Kaslik university which won BUC-Beirut 85-74.
Bhuda club won the Judo championship for which 9 clubs and some 327 players participated.
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