News from Beirut January 23  1998 ...Search

Three Israelis wounded as Israeli planes hit the South

A source of the Israeli allied militia in South Lebanon today said three Israeli soldiers were wounded in two bouts of fighting with Hizbullah that took place near the Sojod post, which is held by Israeli troops and their allied militia. The militia source added two Hizbullah guerrillas were killed in the attack. In a statement, Hizbullah said its guerrillas were involved in the clashes which raised to 13 the number of Israeli soldiers wounded in South Lebanon. A Hizbullah spokesman said he had no information on possible casualties among the group. He said Israeli heavy artillery shelling and air raids followed the attack. Two Israeli warplanes fired a total of two rockets into the area between Jbaa and Ain Bouswar in the Iqlim Al-Touffah mountain ridges in the fifth air assault on the country wince the beginning of the year. There was no immediate report of damage or casualties in the air strike but sources said the Lebanese army and Hizbullah fired anti-aircraft weapons at the raiding planes which had staged a number of mock air raids on the village of Nabatieh and the Iqlim Al-Touffah area. Simultaneously, the Israeli artillery continued its heavy bombardment of hills facing the Sojod post. Israeli shells also fell on the village of Gargoua in Iqlim Al-Touffah wounding one Lebanese civilian by the name of Mohammed Ali Jawad and causing damage in the houses of Zayn Qayss and Dawood Moukalled. This afternoon, Israel also rocketed the outskirts of Ain Bouswar, Ain Qana, Sojod, Rihan, and Mazraat Okmata in Iqlim Al-Touffah.

In another development, the Lebanese army today opened the Zaghly-Mimis border crossing in Hasbayyah to allow the passage, the first of its kind, of university students who live in the Israeli occupied areas to the Lebanese University in Bekaa.

Parliament continues budget discussions tonight

The Lebanese parliament is expected to continue discussions on the draft 1998 state budget tonight. In the sixth round of discussions, 13 deputies are expected to present their debates. Parliamentary sources had quoted House Speaker Nabih Berri as saying the government will reply to all the debates on Sunday. The previously scheduled cabinet session on Monday may thus be deleted and parliament is expected to finalize discussions on Monday and Tuesday instead. During the last sessions and after all discussions are finalized and debates presented, deputies will vote for or against the budget project presented by cabinet in the first place and discussed lengthily by the parliamentary budget and finance committee. The 1998 state budget carries an expected 37.46 percent deficit of income against expenditure.

Hizbullah and Toufeili celebrate World Jerusalem Day

Hizbullah today celebrated World Jerusalem Day through rallies across the country to commemorate the event. The celebration was attended by Hizbullah's secretary general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and a number of religious figures.

Also in Baalbeck, supporters of Sheikh Sobhi Toufeili held separate celebrations to mark Jerusalem Day. The rallies were accompanied by high security measures in the area. A ban was issued yesterday by the Defense Ministry on the carrying of weapons for the purpose of public safety. The Jerusalem Day celebrations were initially called for by late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini to voice support for the Palestinian cause and struggle against Israel.

Lebanese premier reportedly to find solution to war displaced problems

Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today held talks in his palace in Kraytem with a delegation of Christian Leagues in Lebanon. The head of the delegation, who also heads the Maronite League, former deputy Pierre Helou later quoted prime minister Hariri as saying he will find a solution to the different problems faced by the war displace people in the country after the possible ratification of the draft 1998 state budget law. Hariri later received the Archbishop of Zahle Andre Haddad. The premier also held discussions today with delegations from the North and the Bekaa.

French ambassador reiterates his country's support

During a tour of North Lebanon today, the French ambassador to Lebanon Danielle Jouanneau visited former prime minister deputy Omar Karameh. Discussions centered on the recent developments in Lebanon and the region. They also discussed the difficulties facing the Middle East peace process deadlocked for 10 months. After the meeting, Jouanneau reiterated France's support to Lebanon, its independence and sovereignty on all its territories. The French ambassador also said his country also supports the implementation of UN resolution 425 which calls for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon.

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