News from Beirut August 20  1997 ...Search

War Drums Saved April's Understanding

The five nation ceasefire monitoring committee will hold a meeting Today to see to three fresh complaints presented by Israel and Lebanon. Lebanon's foreign minister Fares Boueiz asked the French and US ambassadors to speed up the meeting. House speaker Nabih Berri was informed by US ambassador Richard Jones that contacts among US ambassadors in Israel, Syria and Lebanon, and contacts between the three with officials in the three countries have reached an agreement on cooling the situation. Leading reports today said the war drums and international worry over another war flare up in the M.E. have motivated members of the April's understanding to move on. However, further Israeli aggression cannot be excluded.

-At Sidon, victims of Monday artillery shelling were buried, including three in Sidon, two in the Palestinian camp Rashidiye south of Tyre and another, a Syrian street vendor, transferred to Syria. A mass funeral marched across the main streets of the town, chanting anti Israel and SLA slogans, and burnt the Israeli flag. Muslim senior clerics, representatives of the three presidents and MPs were among the marchers. They intervened to prevent banners that blamed the blood let to some officials and activists of Jezzine. At Aishiye in the security zone, two other Lebanese victims Jean Nasre and his sister were buried in presence of massive crowd. The two were victims of a roadside bomb that exploded along Kfarhouneh main road. Bishop Maroun Sader urged all parties to avoid shelling civilians.

-The Islamic resistance announced it has fired three barrages of Katyusha rockets against the Israeli settlements Kiryat Shimone, Naharia and Metullah. The Israeli sources said 2 persons were wounded there. The equation of Jezzine's security for Sidon's security has now shifted to the new equation "Sidon's security for Kiryat Shimone's security". Lebanon is trying to avert another Israeli equation saying the "SLA for Hizbullah". The rockets that yesterday struck Naharia was the first since April 1996.

According to news dispatches, the Israeli officials were split over the nature of the response. Israel's prime minister Netanyahu, after a tour on the settlements north of Israel, threatened with a tough retaliation. He said the Katyusha rocketing was a serious violation of the April's understanding. Netanyahu revealed that he conveyed a message to Syria via the Americans demanding Syria to curb Hizbullah. On the other hand he repeated that the Lebanese border side won't remain calm unless Israel's northern borders remain the same. Chief of the Israeli military intelligence said Hizbullah still see itself committed to the April's understanding. He said they found themselves, after the SLA's shelling against Sidon, obliged to fire the Katyusha, but Syria is trying to curb them. The Israeli Likud member of the Knesset and head of the security and foreign committee called the Israeli army to strike Lebanon's electricity installations and bridges, in retaliation to the Katyusha rocketing, in order to strike Lebanon's economy and provoke confrontation between the government and the resistance. Israel's infrastructure's minister Ariel Sharon went far and ordered construction of a new quarter in Kiryat Shimone that includes 900 housing unit. Coordinator of the Israeli activities in Lebanon Uri Lubrani said the solution remains political.

-In Beirut, secretary general of Hizbullah sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said the April's understanding was over from the Israeli side, but as to the resistance we are still committed to the understanding and its spirit as long it is capable of protecting the civilians, "on condition that the other party abide by it ". Nasrallah said what happened in Sidon was a continuation of the Israeli policy of burying the April's understanding, and its another attempt to create a new equation named Jezzine-Sidon, aimed to present the case as a Lebanese -Lebanese problem "which is an equation we reject". He said the Katyusha rocketing against the Israeli settlements "was the only and last weapon after one year patience ". Nasrallah said he does not want things to go far, and consequently the situation would cool down at present, but the Israeli aggressions never stooped at any day. He urged Jezzine people to be cautious of the enemy scheme aimed to shift the occupation into a Lebanese inter strife and a confessional strife. He said despite the fact that the artillery shelling at Sidon was from military posts inside Jezzine and from villages in its vicinity, Hizbullah retaliation was against the enemy, because the party did not want to fall in the Israeli trap, and considered that Israel is the enemy not the people of Jezzine.

-President Elias Hrawi said the Lebanese army has carried its obligation and fired back at the military posts that shelled Sidon. He said dealing with the situation now is up to the Lebanese officials both through diplomacy or the ceasefire monitoring committee. His spouse Mona Hrawi has participated in the funeral at Sidon.

-House speaker Nabih Berri said the Israeli artillery was the one that shelled Sidon because the SLA posses no 155mm artillery. He cautioned the Lebanese of the Israeli plots to stir problems among them and hailed the Lebanese army retaliatory fire against the Israeli posts. He warned the people in south of evacuating out and asked MPs of south to stay with the people to urge them steadfastness. Berri said the shelling of Sidon was tantamount to the shelling of Qana last year because it was aimed to provoke strife between the people of Jezzine and that in Sidon. He told visitors that he is against any effort that dissociate separate Jezzine from the rest of the country. Mr. Berri said he did not blame former ambassador Simon Karam for meeting SLA Antoine Lahd but he blamed him for saying the Lebanese security forces are "agents" of the Lebanese government.

-Prime minister Hariri, who returned back after economical talks in Damascus, said the Israeli aggression was a violation of the April's understanding. He said the Israeli present policy was a blow at the peace process.

-Foreign minister Fares Boueiz hinted that Lebanon would go to the UN security council to halt the Israeli aggressions if the security situation in south Lebanon remains as it is now. He said with such move and the ongoing tension, the ceasefire committee will be then surmounted. He said Israel is planning to curve and empty the coming visit of Mrs. Albright to the region and make it exclusively security, same as before during Christopher's visits. Boueiz emphasized that Lebanon won't go to the peace negotiations except under one motto that is the implementation of the 425 resolution.

Syria-Lebanon, Economical Cooperation

-The Lebanese Syrian economical cooperation talks that was held over the past two days in Damascus ended with agreement on a gradual free exchange of agriculture and industrial products between the two countries. A ministerial committee including the two countries will lay down the necessary relevant surveys in order to complete the file. The talks also reached agreement on fixing price of Lebanese bananas exported to Syria, another agreement on the certificate of origin of the products, and on Syria's supply with 500 megawatt electricity power via Anjar plant. The two sides discussed formation of a committee that works on unifying the custom duty. The meeting was a prelude of the Lebanese Syrian high council's meeting that was not fixed yet. Prime minister Rafik Hariri, who returned back to Beirut, declared saying the political relation with Syria is excellent but the economical one is less than that. Syrian prime minister said the two countries local products are to be exchanged .


- Both Ansar and Nijmeh football teams were fined by L.L 2mn each and some of their players suspended by the Lebanese Football Federation for inadequate practices of their supporters last Sunday during the Viceroy Cup's game. The two teams will play this Sunday at Bourj Hammoud the final game of the Super Cup Championship. The Lebanese Federation decided to squeeze number of supporters to 2,500 for each club.

- Iraq's football team now visiting Lebanon upon an invitation from the Lebanese Football Federation is to play tomorrow a friendly match with its Lebanese national counterpart team at Beirut Municipal stadium. Head of the Iraqi team said banning Iraqi athletes from the Eighth Pan Arab Games was against the spirit and purpose of the games, which were to unite the Arab ranks.

-Lebanese volleyball team Ghazir won the Egyptian Sharqiyah Li Dokhan 3-1 at Hafroun-Ehmej Arabic festival.

-Lebanese driver Nabil Karam ranked second in the Jordanian car racing tournament Tal Rumman held last week in Jordan. Participants in the racing were 52 including 14 from Lebanon.

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