Israeli security sources today said an explosion wounded three Lebanese men and three Israelis at the Mtelleh-Kfar Kela northern border with Lebanon.
The Israeli army said the explosion was carried out by a Lebanese man who had come to the crossing from Lebanon intending to give an envelop-enclosed cassette to Israeli security personnel at the gate area. When he opened the envelope in a police sapper's presence, the cassette exploded, wounding the man. After the blast, large numbers of security forces sealed off the border and launched widespread searches of the surrounding area. The incident took place at the Mteleh crossing between Israel and the zone Israel occupies in South Lebanon. Known as the "Good Friends" border post, the crossing is used by residents of the occupied zone, primarily relatives of members of the Israeli allied militia in the South who work in Israel.
But earlier, Israeli security sources said the Lebanese man carrying the cassette was killed in the bombing. Meanwhile, Lebanon's Amal Movement claimed responsibility for the bomb attack that it said killed an intelligence officer in the Israeli allied militia and wounded several Israelis. A statement by Amal today said a group of their guerrillas gave a blow to the intelligence operation of the Israeli army detonating a very sophisticated bomb against a number of its officers. A militia source in Marjayoun said the dead man worked in the allied militia's intelligence adding another militia intelligence officer, Samir Ruslan, was wounded along with three members of Israeli intelligence. He said the two Israeli allied militia men had gone together to the border. But the Amal statement said Ruslan had been killed.
Later, Israeli warplanes made mock raids over the hills of Iqlim al-Touffah north of the Israeli occupied zone. Most guerrilla against the Israeli occupation forces are carried out by Hizbullah but Amal and Palestinian guerrillas mount occasional operations.
During cabinet's session this morning, discussions centered on the media file. Information minister Bassem Al-Sabaa briefed ministers on the requirements which would enable the state-run Tele Liban to start satellite broadcasting in the near future.
Government Palace sources today said cabinet decided to allocate an amount of 380 million dollars enabling Tele Liban to start political satellite broadcasting.
Ministers also discussed today the recent massacres in Algeria. After the meeting, Information Minister Bassem Al-Sabaa said the Lebanese government expresses deep sorrow and pain to the death of civilian in Algeria, one of the countries who helped Lebanon in the past by participating in the organization of the Taef meeting. Ministerial sources revealed some Lebanese-Arab contacts were being made to discuss possible ways of providing help to Algeria.
Following cabinet's session, a ministerial committee in charge of continuing discussions on the media file convened headed by Interior Minister Michel Al-Murr in the government palace. The meeting was attended by eight ministers who continued cabinet's discussions concerning the role of the national audio-visual media council and the possibility of Tele Liban's satellite broadcasting.
The head of the parliamentary budget and finance committee deputy Khalil Hrawi today met prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri at the government palace before cabinet's session. Talks centered on the possibility of introducing some amendments to agenda 9 of the draft 1998 state budget law. Hrawi later emphasized the draft 1998 state budget law will be ready tomorrow. The head of the budget committee also said Hariri might agree on some "reasonable" amendments to the law. Agenda 9 deals with increasing taxation on some areas of the budget especially road taxes.
Sources close to the government palace said Hariri might attend a possible meeting of the committee tonight which was scheduled to discuss the mentioned agenda of the budget law. Parliament is expected to ratify the budget law during next a session next week.
At the presidential palace in Baabda, House Speaker Nabih Berri held talks with president Elias Al-Hrawi. Their meeting centered on the 1998 state budget, the media file and the expected local elections. Hrawi and Berri also had a number of regional discussions concerning the recent Algerian massacres and the Middle East peace process. After the meeting, Berri told reporters at the palace he rejected a suggestion by deputy Boutrous Harb concerning introducing some amendments to the municipal and mayoral election law. Berri also said he discussed with the president some aspects related to the media file adding the state-run Tele Liban will start political satellite broadcasting on January 25. He reiterated the necessity of activating the role of the national audio-visual media council as part of efforts to resolve media problems and disputes in the country.
Concerning the 1998 budget, Berri said he told President Hrawi the 1998 sate budget reductions are expected to reach the 200 billion Lebanese Liras.
Israel today lifted its siege on the Southern village of Shibaa which lasted for 21 days. During this period, Israel every now and then broke into the village and detained a number of Lebanese citizens. Israeli intelligence forces detained 21 residents of Shibaa and led them to the Khiam detention center which is run by the Israeli allied militia in the South and were torture is systematic and living conditions are unbearable.
Israel gave no apparent reason for the siege but concerning the detentions, Israeli intelligence sources say the prisoners were taken on charges of contacts with the Lebanese resistance in the South.
Many of the villagers today refused to talk about the siege fearing possible future detention. But some who refused to give their names described the difficult conditions they lived through during the Israeli siege. Also today, Israel released one of the detained residents of Shibaa, Majed Kaadan, after five days of detention.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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