South Lebanon remained marginal to the visit by the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who appeared to have limited her attention to Israel's security.
In this framework, Israel executed on Friday a warning it previously gave to the Lebanese Army by directly hitting its positions in Arabsalim, killing six of its soldiers, and conveying a multi-dimensional political message to Lebanon. Targeting the Lebanese Army came after the latter confronted Israeli helicopters while bombarding a Hisbullah position in the area.
Hadi Nasrallah, the son of Hisbullah's Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, and two of his comrades were reportedly killed during the confrontations. The bodies of Hadi Nasarallah and one of his comrades were reportedly taken by the attacking force. The incident is believed to be the biggest since Hisbullah's former Secretary General Abbas Moussawi was assassinated in February 1992.
A Lebanese Army communique later said that, "during the night of September 12-13, Israeli enemy helicopters launched air raids against the Lebanese Army positions in the area of Arabsalim in Iqlim Attufah, drawing anti aircraft defense fire. The raids resulted in the martyrdom of six Lebanese Army soldiers, including one officer. The air raids also led to killing a Lebanese woman, wounding five other soldiers, and destroying two Lebanese Army personnel carriers".
Press reports said the Lebanese army soldiers were in armored personnel carriers when hit by Israeli missiles.
Those killed during the raid were first-lieutenant Jawad Azar, corporal Khodr Ghiya, recruits Mohammad Shaabni, Nejib Rihan, and a 6th whose rank was not specified by hospital sources. Those wounded were first-sergeant Hassan Zuaiter, private Mohammad Khodr, recruit Hadi Karam, recruit Hassan Shahrour, recruit Khaled Ajaj, and recruit Kamal Saiid. A civilian woman, Aziza Moqalled (45) was injured while in her house at the Arabsalim triangle, and later died in the hospital.
Lebanon's media blamed Israel for escalating the situation in a bid to exert pressure on Syria and Lebanon, following Albright's visit to Damascus. The Israeli move coincided with an offer presented by Lebanon's Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, expressing the readiness of Lebanon and Syria to sign a peace accord with Israel in three months, if the latter concedes to withdraw from south Lebanon and the Golan Heights.
The deterioration in south Lebanon also coincided with what the media here described as the failure for Mrs. Albright mission after her third day in the region. Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz denied yesterday afternoon receiving any information about a possible visit by Mrs. Albright to Lebanon. Ministerial sources said the visit to Beirut was dependent on the outcome of her talks in Damascus, and on whether the aim of her visit was limited to uprooting "terrorism" and guaranteeing the security of Israel.
A leading Lebanese daily later revealed that it received information affirming that Albright will visit Lebanon during her Middle Eastern tour. The information said contacts between Lebanon and the US are being made to arrange the details of the visit.
Press reports in Beirut said Lebanon is hopeful France and US would work on halting the escalation, limiting the ongoing war of attrition, and reviving the April understanding ceasefire Monitoring Group. The reports also said the escalation was inevitable during Albright's visit.
Meanwhile in Israeli, daily "Haaretz" said Hizbullah, now enjoying high morals, is recruiting hundreds of villagers in its intelligence service, and is thus adding more burdens to the Israeli army. The paper said Hizbullah recently received more sophisticated arms from Iran, including a 40-km range katyusha, and is now cooperating with the Lebanese army and Amal Movement.
Hizbullah's Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah in speech yesterday affirmed that the martyrdom of his son Hadi "was not a victory for the Israeli enemy because this was the road he has chosen". He said, "Hadi's death was in fact a victory for Hizbullah and the course of the resistance".
Speaking on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of what has been termed as the "September 13 massacre", Nasralalh affirmed in his speech that "Hizbulla's patience and the wisdom of its leaders and base have prevented an internal strife which wanted the Lebanese Army to confront the resistance". He said, "shooting at unarmed people at the Airport road aimed at triggering an internal war which they knew how it would start, but no body knew how it would end".
"We have transferred the civil strife plan which aimed at shooting at the Lebanese Army, to a point where we are now fighting together and martyring together, and this was the big victory we achieved and take pride in", he said
On another note, Nasrallah considered that Arafat's "treason was the greatest in the 20th Century, because he lost 50 years of Arab and Muslim Jihad (holy war) and sufferings, and has by that abandoned Jerusalem and Palestine".
He also said that "in memory of those martyrs, we affirm our rejection of arrogance and humiliation because the land is ours, and we will not beg peace of an old hag touring the region, and because peace is something taken by the rifle and the blood of martyrs".
France's Foreign Minister Hubert Vidrine yesterday insisted on an earlier statement he made, describing Netanyahu's policies as "catastrophic", despite criticisms by Israeli officials and the French Jewish circles. He yesterday said that his views on Netanyahu's policy were largely circulated. France's former Foreign Minister Hervet de Charette also supported his successor's views, and praised him for saying things with spontaneity and frankness.Vidrine earlier said that Netanyahu's government has led the Palestinians in the self-rule areas to an unprecedented level of dismay and desperation, through harassment's and humiliations. He said it is "a catastrophic policy now and in the future for the Palestinians, Israel and the entire region".
Meanwhile in Paris, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri yesterday concluded a FF250m ($41.5m) loan agreement with France, giving Lebanon a 30-year repayment period. Following the signing ceremony, France's Prime Minister Lionel Jospin also reiterated his country's support for Lebanon, and said, "Lebanon can rest assured about the continuation of France's support at these difficult times"
Lebanon's newly formed 10-member Constitutional Council's rejected in a ruling yesterday the government's decision to extend the mandate of municipal councils and mayors until 1999.
The ruling, which abrogated a decision endorsed by the Parliament in July, came as result of a challenge submitted last month by 14 opposition deputies on the grounds that the new municipal councils are necessary for the system, and should therefore take place as soon as possible. The council's secretary general Kamal Raydan said the
Council's decision would be officially announced this morning, subsequent to submitting it to President Hrawi, Speaker Berri and Prime Minister Hariri.
-President Elias Hrawi Yesterday received a delegation of Argentine's "Fia Arab" organizations, which engulfs all Arab communities there, and numbers 150. The delegation, currently visiting Lebanon and Syria to revive the memory of their homeland, wished President Hrawi to visit Argentine and meet the Lebanese community which is "eager to regain their Lebanese nationality".
-House Speaker Nabih Berri yesterday arrived in Yerevan, Armenia, the second station in a current tour which will later take him to Iran. Upon his arrival, he said this was his first visit to Armenia, and hoped the visit will solidify bilateral relations between the two countries.
-Minister Walid Jumblat demanded that the Lebanese nationality be granted to the Druzes of Syria, Jordan and other countries, "who had immigrated or were displaced since 1711". He also demanded compensations for the properties confiscated during the term of Emir Beshir El Chehabi and the Mutasarifiyah.
-Former Prime Minister Selim Hoss, Batroun MP Boutros Harb and Matn MP Nassib Lahoud yesterday hailed the Constitutional Council's decision to rule out a government decision to extend the mandate of municipal councils and mayors to 1999. They also praised the Council's credibility and independence.
-Patriarch Sfeir yesterday told a delegation of the Lebanese Journalists Association that Lebanon cannot achieve a unilateral peace with Israel, regardless of whether that is a "Lebanon first" or a "Jezzine first" proposition. He said his visit to Syria is not subject to discussion if it will have no meaning. He emphasized that naturalization in Lebanon should not be haphazard. He criticized Lebanon's exclusion from Albright's tour "at a time when Lebanon is the only country paying for what is going on in the region". The Patriarch said the situation in the country is deteriorating in the sense that "each day there is are more bloodshed and victims, with no real prospects for peace".
-Mosque Sermons last Friday assailed the US and warned against Israel's repeated talks about a unilateral withdrawal from south Lebanon. This, they said, could be a prelude to a new Israeli aggression. Hizbullah's spiritual leader Sheikh Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah said Israel might be preparing to launch new aggressions against Lebanon. He said Albright's visit to the region aims at allowing Israel to catch breath, in addition to pressuring Arab countries to attend the upcoming Middle East and North Africa Economic Conference in Doha, Qatar.
-Sheikh Subhi Tufeili announced that an ongoing dialogue has postponed the steps he pledged to take on September 13, the deadline he set for re- activating his hunger revolution. He said if the government does not respond, we shall see what we will happen next.
-MP Ali Khreis, who is continuing his visit to Germany, assailed the German government's persistence on deporting about 20,000 Lebanese who, in the majority, are from the occupied border area. MP Khreis urged the Lebanese government and foreign ministry to intervene and halt the process.
-The Chairmen of Lebanon's Insurance Companies Association affirmed that Lebanese insurers are insuring earthquake risks with hesitation, but with a Low rate not exceeding 5 per thousand of the building value. He said Lebanon does not need another study to prove it is threatened by earthquakes, but needs certain criteria that should be observed by engineers. He called the Order of Engineers to bear responsibility in this respect.
-The audio-visual media stations that were not granted licenses are campaigning against the move. Former Prime Minister Selim Hoss told a delegation that the government's closure of the file is a violation of law. Hoss said that splitting the licenses among the officials was an illegal gain. Hoss said the file will remain open because it is illegal for officials to benefit from decisions they take.
-International FIFA president Du Havilanj announced he will not run again for the post of president because he is spending 300 days a year away from his family. He said he is happy about the achievements made by the FIFA union, marking the increase of World football players to 250 million, including 40 million women. He said he prefers to give a chance to all continents to host the World Cup so as not to keep the matter among the countries of Europe and the Americas. He said a chance would be given to Japan and South Korea in 2002 and to Africa in 2006. He mentioned that Egypt is now organizing the world cup for beginners, under 17 years of age. He said all countries have the same rank in FIFA, where there are no developed or underdeveloped or third world countries. Saudi Arabia, he said, has a big chance to organize the 2006 World Cup, but the Saudis did not show enthusiasm when he proposed the matter. He promised more support to the Lebanese football, and said he admires the rapid progress the Lebanese football has achieved. He said he was happy with the new Sport City in Beirut, which was finished in such a short time. His 24-hour visit to Lebanon ended with announcing FIFA's intention to invite Prime Minister Hariri to attend the opening of France's Mondial in 1998.
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