News from Beirut August 19  1997 ...Search

Bombing Sidon, The objectives and Motivations

- Yesterday's dramatic bombing of Sidon which killed 6 and wounded over 30 has in fact dropped down all the alleged guarantees that the April's understanding said to have provided to Lebanon. Israel's blame to the SLA militia of being behind the shelling cannot black out the Israeli label of the shelling, which has a connection with the coming visit of Mrs. Albright to the region. The bombing of Sidon was categorically different in scale and nature of the past spates of violence in south. This time its against a populated town, a strong message to the state of Lebanon and particularly to the prime minister who is a Sidonese, and a call to Lebanon to negotiate "Jezzine First" proposal, which can take place in a Lebanese-Israeli framework, contrary to the proposal "Lebanon First" which involved Syria too. The bombing was the most serious setback since last year's. The Lebanese army artillery retaliation against the SLA was signaling that the army is the only solution and that the upper hand is to the state.

A Lebanese senior official described the shelling of Sidon as a massacre of the April's understanding, and said it was the maximum shelling of the civilians whom the understanding was laid down to protect. Lebanon already filed a complaint to the cease fire committee even though realizing that the development went beyond the committee but its the only option since the UN security council is a place where the US veto would prevent any resolution against Israel. Another official noticed that Sidon is far from the security zone and consequently shelling the town has evoked fear that it could be a prelude of a large scale deterioration.

- President Elias Hrawi yesterday night held consultations with the house speaker Nabih Berri and discussed the measures that should be taken. The House speaker Berri said the artillery shelling at Sidon was very serious and one of its objectives is to destroy the ceasefire panel. He excluded any further escalation and said a complaint to the UN will be futile. Prime minister Rafik Hariri who yesterday arrived to Damascus at 6.00 p.m. held a 5 hours meeting with the Syrian vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam. Mr. Hariri was quoted saying "what happened in Sidon in the human terms was a massacre but its political results were limited". In an evening declaration, Hariri said the new massacre signaled determination of Netanyahu's government on killing all chances of peace and going far in the tension that is taking the region to the unknown. He said the denunciation and condemnation did not and will not treat the Israeli policy that will take the region into more wars and disturbances. Hariri said the Israeli aggression against Lebanon in the past and now will not force Lebanon to retreat its stand and its demand calling for the implementation of the UN resolution no 425.

- The shelling of Sidon came two hours after a young man and a 12 years girl killed in a roadside bomb along the Kfarhouneh-Jezzine main road. A third man was reported missing. Ministerial sources in Beirut said the cousin of the two victims, who is an SLA officer, was tapped saying he will make a blood let in Sidon. He immediately ordered the shelling of Sidon.

- Hizbullah strongly denied planting the roadside bomb and denied Israeli allegations blaming it of the explosion. The party called the government here to urge the ceasefire monitoring panel to bear its responsibility. It also accused Israel of planting such a "suspicious blast".

- Israel's defense minister expressed his regret for the civilian casualties in Sidon and blamed the SLA for the shelling of Sidon. He said killing civilians in the shelling was a contrast to Israel's policy. He said clear instructions were given to the SLA to avert shelling the civilians. The senior spokesman of the Israeli army said "Israel did not, repeat did not, shell Sidon". He claimed that the artillery shelling came from outside Jezzine and that Israel opposed the shelling of civilians. He said Israel coordinates with SLA inside the security zone but Jezzine is out of the security zone, and the SLA commander Lahd has forces in Jezzine that were out of Israel's control and responsibility. He said Israel will urge Lahd not to violate the ceasefire. He said Israel opposes any civilian casualties and any attack against civilians in Lebanon. Commander of the Israeli northern front Gen. Levin said he hopes and advise Hizbullah not to make a mistake and retaliate by shelling north Israel and hit Israeli civilians.

The US state department denounced the attacks against civilians at Sidon and urged all the parties to exercise the maximum self restraint. The department urged return to the April's understanding. The state department spokesman said he hopes the ceasefire monitoring committee hold a meeting in short time. He said the committee was successful in the past in easing such situation.

-News analyst today said the SLA commander Antoine Lahd has lost his credibility in Israel and there are fears of a vaccum in Jezzine region. Another analyst questioned if the SLA really willing to pull out from Jezzine and if yes what will be his pay off.

-Former ambassador Simon Karam, native of Jezzine, said the SLA commander paid him a surprise visit at his residence in Jezzine and told him he is willing to pull out of the region. Lahd also told him to convey his demands to the government in Beirut. Karam said his response was that he is not the proper channel to convey the demands.


-Lebanon and Syria are to discuss today ways to promote their bilateral economical and trade relation and measures to widen frameworks of cooperation and exchange of their local products. Prime minister Hariri and other concerned ministers will participate in the meeting with their Syrian counterparts. Lebanon is to propose expanding its exports to Iraq via Syria in the framework of food for oil . The Syrian access for the Lebanese exports to Iraq will maintain its competitive cost better than Jordan or Dubai route.

-Patriarch Sfair yesterday said Lebanon is now before a hard phase as the great powers use it as a pressure card and a blackmail card in a world of interests that is without values. He said Lebanon is not anymore on the best rank and priority, since it is located on a crucial map and in a crucial regional situation, but one day Lebanon would be in a position to help others.

-Representatives of 26 Lebanese political parties held yesterday the broadest ever meeting of parties in Lebanon including all political tendencies and ideologies. The conferees adopted a platform including 9 items, especially enhancing the participation in the resistance against Israel and a review of the economical policy. A follow up committee is to continue the political dialogue and make suggestions.

-Head of the PLO political department Farouk Kaddoumi postponed his visit to Beirut after his meeting in Damascus Sunday with the Syrian foreign minister. Kaddoumi affirmed that the reason of the postponement was not because of disagreements between Lebanese and Palestinian officials. Palestinian sources said Kaddoumi was advised to postpone the visit until the situation improve in Beirut.

-The council for development and reconstruction CDR was given a treasury lending amounting L.L195bn to be spent on projects in the rural areas namely Bekaa.

-The Lebanese government is due to meet tomorrow as usual on Wednesday and discuss its agenda of 42 topics.

-Leader of the Kataeb party George Saadeh denounced the cycle of violence in the south and the new situation that prevailed in Sidon and Jezzine. He regretted the continued loss of innocent people and warned of an internal strife provoked by the Israeli military practices, that would turn south Lebanon's people into victims of Israeli schemes.

-Pierre Edde, a prominent Lebanese figure, a banker and economy giant, died in Sao Paolo on Sunday. Funeral service is to be held Thursday at Wardieh in Beirut.


-Iraqi football team yesterday arrived to Beirut on board of a Jordanian airlines flight. The team is to play a friendly game with the Lebanese national team at 8.00 p.m. Thursday at Bourj Hammoud stadium. The 37 player, couch and administrator team was received at the airport's saloon of honor by the president of the Lebanese football federation Nabil Raii.

- 70 Lebanese chess players from all the regions in the country are participating in an open tournament at Deir el Qamar. The tournament was organized by the Lebanese chess union and the French cultural center.

- The Brummana Tennis tournament on its 7th day continues on under the supervision of the Lebanese tennis union.

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