News from Beirut August 8 1997 ...Search

South Lebanon, Where To ?

-Fresh news today said south Lebanon is on a volcano and on the brink as Israel deliberately torpedo the April's understanding by targeting civilians. Israeli warplanes raided today at 7.15 p.m. the hills of Naameh south of Beirut the Palestinian PFLP has some social medical offices and fired one air to surface missile. No reports were yet available on casualties. The Israeli artillery shelled today villages in Tyre region including Izziyeh, Hinniyeh and Zibqine. Early today at 6.15 a.m. three katyusha rocket fell at the Israeli settlement Kiryat Shimone north of Israel. An Israeli woman was slightly injured of glass shrapnel and a synagogue was hit and damaged. The Israeli army called by loud speakers residents of the Israeli settlements north of Israel to go to shelters. The rockets at Kiryat Shimone were the first since last year's "Grapes of Wraths" blitz.

Hizbullah secretary general sheikh Hassan Nasrallah denied firing the rockets and said it can't be considered responsible of that. Nasrallah said his party always announce its responsibility of any action and do not fire rockets at night and hide in the morning. Israel said Syria is the responsible, whoever fired the rockets because they work for Syria and pose the ceasefire to a serious danger. Israel's defense minister said his country will do whatever possible to secure its citizens and security of its northern settlements. He said the Lebanese government and Hizbullah are responsible of the area where the rockets were fired and Hizbullah knows everything that happened there. He said the Lebanese state and Hizbullah were responsible of what happened this morning. The ceasefire monitoring committee is to meet Sunday at Naqoura to examine 8 complaints filed by both Lebanon and Israel. No group has claimed responsibility of the rocketing today. President Elias Hrawi told his visitors that he is preoccupied with the situation in south and following up the developments.

House speaker Nabih Berri said he hopes that the helicopter's crash was accidental and not a scheme to force the UNIFIL out of the country. Hizbullah secretary general sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said at a press conference today Israel is pushing the region into a state of war. He said any new war will have Syria as a target and aims to pave grounds for a new situation that is in favor of the peace settlement in accordance to Israel's concept.

-Five people yesterday reported killed including four civilians and seven others wounded in another round up of south Lebanon violent vicious circle and another day of military escalation. As a result of an Israeli artillery shelling of Kfarmilki in Iqlim Toffah one civilian was killed and four others wounded in addition to material damages. Two more civilians were wounded when Israel shelled Bisri and Joun in Iqlim Kharoub. The shelling came after an SLA man killed in a blast that exploded in his car along the main road of Jezzine-Arieh. At noon, another blast exploded in a taxi on Markaba road inside the security zone killing a woman and her two children and wounded the driver. Hizbullah denied its responsibility of the last explosion, while Israel accused Hizbullah of planting the blast and being responsible of the death of the woman and her children. Israel said the husband was taken to a hospital inside Israel.

-Israel yesterday accused Hizbullah of firing Katyusha rockets against north Israel but it did not confirm landing of katyusha rockets that were fired Wednesday-Thursday overnight. The SLA has said some rockets struck Naharia in north Israel. The Israeli commander of the northern front Gen. Levine after a visit to Kiryat Shimone in north Israel said he hope Hizbullah won't make mistakes and no Katyushas fall on north of the country. He said Israel will do its best to avert violence. He said nearly 40 Katyusha rockets and mortar shells hit Thursday overnight three Israeli posts in the area it occupies in south Lebanon. Levine hoped that Hizbullah won't ignore the self restraint that is exercised by Israel and to pose the civilians to danger. He said "Israel is doing the best to return calm to the border area between Lebanon and Israel". Later in the day and before midnight, Levine repeated that the Israeli security forces should find out the proper response to Hizbullah's terrorist military escalation. He said the military escalation is becoming an annoy to the residents of villages and towns along the frontline and that they were obliged to remain in shelters and basements. Israel's radio said the Israeli commando force that attacked Kfour was a painful blow at Hizbullah both morally and practically. Israel infrastructure's minister Ariel Sharon said he thinks a real war is going on in Lebanon. He said the war is a terrorist one and takes place under Syria's patronage and seeks Syrian political interest.

-Italy's prime minister has arrived before midnight to Beirut airport coming from Israel and was received at the airport by his Lebanese counterpart and foreign minister Fares Boueiz. The Italian prime minister and his delegation went to Baabda palace where they met president Elias Hrawi, accompanied by premier Hariri and minister Boueiz. He said he is in Beirut to express the Italian people's grief over the death of four Italians and another Irish. He added that the five peacekeepers' death was for peace and the implementation of the UN resolution 425, which is a guarantee and peace for Lebanon. He added that he came to Beirut before his return to Rome to express the deep friendship between Lebanon and Italy. He denied that the UNIFIL helicopter's crash was a sabotage saying there is no such indication. He said he has no idea on the reason of the crash and whether it was technical. He pointed out that his country has dispatched a technical team to south Lebanon to join other UNIFIL experts to investigate the case. The Italian official denied his country will pull out of the peace mission in south and said the helicopter crash was the first in 19 years and it is an obligation to continue the mission which is necessary for the peace. Prime minister Hariri said the Lebanese officials extended their condolence to the Italians and express their thanks to Italy's clear and frank stand in support of the UNIFIL's mission. Hariri denied he conveyed any information on the crash to his Italian counterpart. The Italian official's visit to Lebanon lasted over an hour.

-UNIFIL spokesman in south Lebanon said an Italian army security-technical team arrived to south Lebanon to inquire the helicopter's crash and check bodies of the dead crew. He said the UNIFIL accused nobody now and is waiting result of the investigations. He said almost all parties know the schedule of the Italian helicopters flights. The UNIFIL force in south include four helicopters with 48 man serving with Italian battalion. Italy succeeded Norway helicopter's team. A Norwejian helicopter had crashed at the end of the 70's in south and four of the then crew had been killed. The UN in N.Y said it did not find anything that cast doubt and its spokesman said there is nothing at present that make it think of a suspicious reason.

-The Italian helicopter crash and the UN decision to suspend all helicopter's flights until the investigations clear the case was a main reason for not holding a meeting of the ceasefire panel that was scheduled Thursday noon at Naqoura. The Lebanese and Syrian delegations refused to go to Naqoura by land in order to avoid passing across Israeli and SLA checkpoints on the road. The US new state department spokesman said all the delegations could not arrive to the venue of the meeting and consequently the meeting was postponed. He said the US urged all the parties to exercise maximum self restraint in order to ease the situation on ground. He said the US is in contact with the ceasefire panel's members to see what it can do to make the meeting possible. Lebanon foreign minister said he is contacting France and other countries on the Mediterranean to ensure a helicopter that can be used by the two Syrian and Lebanese delegations for transport between Beirut and Naqoura. Boueiz said the panel's meeting is urgent and important.

Government Security Measures

-At a meeting of Lebanon's central security council under interior minister Michel Murr and in presence of a representative of the Syrian forces it was announced that the Lebanese army will command the security forces that will be deployed at Beirut suburbs and Bekaa. Murr also announced that preparations will be finalized as soon as possible and deployment will take place at the earliest "in order to carry on the mission of closing all the unlicensed media stations, halt illegal constructions, car robbery and others. Prosecutor who attended the meeting said he instructed all prosecutors in Lebanon to meet today at 11.30 a.m. to discuss and define the mechanism of work in view of the government decision. The talks will center on how "to allow the judiciary to carry on its mission, especially recording all speeches and confirm its authenticity to take the legal relevant consequent measures". A Lebanese informed source said the army deployment in the suburbs, where it is already present same as in Bekaa, will not be extraordinary and different than its deployment now at north Metn, Kesrouan, Jbeil and Chuf. The source said it will be the mission of the internal security forces ISF to restrict violations such as illegal constructions and ban the gatherings, but the army intervention will take place only in serious major cases such as armed manifestations, and in such case the army will intervene beside the ISF to face it.

-Hizbullah secretary general sheikh Hassan Nasrallah at a press conference today said enforcing the government decision at the southern suburbs and Bekaa will not take place. He said the security measures at the southern suburbs as decided by the government is "part of secret commitments and arrangements that were agreed in framework of the package with the US administration over lifting the travel ban". Nasrallah said these commitments and arrangements will not have an effect and will have later consequences. He refused using the southern suburbs of Beirut as a pay off in any package. He said the government decision is serious and those trying to cause a rift between the army and the people of the suburbs and people of the resistance are living an illusion that won't take place in reality. He said the Lebanese army is ours and our homes open to its soldiers. Nasrallah said figuring out the suburbs as an outlaw region is rejected. He excluded that Syria accepts such an insult to the suburbs and its people and to the resistance.

-Information minister Bassem Sabbaa, who is a Shiite from the southern suburbs said figuring out the government decision as directed against a region, a community or certain people is rejected. He said the decision was against law violators.


-Egypt's prime minister Kamal Janzouri 32 hours visit to Lebanon ended today. Before departing the country after a two day official visit he will sign some 12 agreements, understanding and executive programs all aimed to promote bilateral relations. The visit was warmly received by Lebanon due to its political and economical significance and for being the first such visit by a senior Egyptian official. The 12 bilateral agreement were finalized by the Lebanese Egyptian high committee presided by the two countries prime ministers. Janzouri said Egypt stands beside Lebanon until it wins its independence and the enemy go out of its land. Janzouri was decorated by president Elias Hrawi.


-The recent government decision and the relevant security measures evoked fear of many politicians who express their worry of using it as pretext to terrorize the people and oppress freedoms.

-Patriarch Sfair told his visitors that the Maronites who were combating each other have forgiven each other and have to continue their dialogue and meetings. He said the war will not be repeated in the country if the Lebanese know how to live together and resolve their problems through dialogue. The patriarch said there will be no peace in Lebanon without a comprehensive one in the entire region.

-Foreign minister Fares Boueiz said the escalation in south Lebanon reflects the impasse facing Israel's premier Netanyahu. In a cable of condolence to Italian ambassador in Lebanon Boueiz said the five UNIFIL servicemen are martyrs of Lebanon.

-Political analysts today said the Israeli escalation in the south would be faced by a counter escalation and the April's understanding might collapse as a result.

-House speaker Nabih Berri said playing game with the parliament on MP Najah Wakim case is not permitted and while south Lebanon is boiling they give main focus to Wakim's case. The lawyer's bar is to give permission to prosecute the MP in his capacity as lawyer. Wakim said the government last decisions are unconstitutional and it is "a martial law" without declaration.

-Minister for the displaced Walid Jumblat visited Ashrafieh to extend condolence for the death of Shawki Mallat. Jumblat's critics against the army at a recent TV interview was criticized by the Maronite League.

-US ambassador in Lebanon visited Greek Orthodox bishop Elias Audi.

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