Tension escalates in the South as a result of a long night of Israeli attacks on a number of villages and towns. Late last night, Israeli warplanes carried out air raids on the hills of Naameh following similar raids on the Mleeta Hill in Iqlim Al-Touffah. In another development, one UNIFIL soldier was injured yesterday while he was driving on the road linking Zibkeen and Henneih. One Israeli soldier was killed and four others wounded in a resistance operation carried out on the road leading to the Israeli outpost in Sojod. Heavy Israeli shelling yesterday targeted civilian areas in the Iqlim Al-Touffah Mountain Ridges.
Early this morning, Israeli bombardment targeted Wadi Al-Kfour and the riverbank of Habboush launched from the Israeli position in Zaffateh. Shells also fell on the towns of Annan and Joun damaging a number of civilian houses.
Meanwhile, Israeli navy forces yesterday prevented a German ship carrying cars from entering the port of Tyre. After four hours of inspections and investigations, the ship was allowed to continue its way to the harbour.
In another development, an International Red Cross convoy today carried 18 citizens through Kfar Tibnit to visit 10 Lebanese detainees in the Israeli-run Khiam prison.
The joint Lebanese-Syrian Council of Businessmen praised the efforts of Lebanese President Elias Al-Hrawi which resulted in a decree that decreases custom duties on Syrian products by 25%. The council added the move constitutes a first step on the way of uniting the Lebanese and Syrian markets and also of establishing the Arab Common Market later on. This was stated in a letter sent to Hrawi by the council which is currently in session in Damascus. The letter also revealed the group's decision to establish a joint Lebanese-Syrian investment company.
At the presidential palace in Baabda, President Elias Al-Hrawi is expected to convene with Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri who arrived late last night from Damascus. The two leaders will discuss the outcome of Hariri's visit to Damascus and a number of issues which are expected to top the agenda of cabinet's session. The meeting precedes cabinet's session which will be held for the first time in the Grand Saray after it underwent rehabilitation and reconstruction. 33 clauses are to be discussed by ministers today.
Sources close to Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri's office revealed the premier will be interviewed live on TV tonight. The sources added his appearance on the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI) would present the premier's views on the latest internal developments in the country. Hariri is also expected to give his analysis of the current political and economic situation in the country. The sources also said the interview with the premier will present the Lebanese people with his expectations regarding the country's future in light of the upcoming presidential elections. The recent war of words between the premier and House Speaker Nabih Berri will also be tackled in tonight's interview.
Mufti of the Republic Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani today headed a meeting of the Higher Islamic Council in Lebanon. The session was attended by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and members of the council. The meeting was held to discuss the possibility of amending Decree 18, which organizes the work of the council. But Prime Minister Hariri later told reporters the council decided to amend only article 42 of the decree which is related to specifying the members of the electoral committee of the Higher Islamic Council. Hariri added this will be discussed during a second meeting scheduled for October 15. For his part, Mufti Qabbani announced a new council should be elected adding that in 25 years no elections occurred.
Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz commented on the Clinton-Lewinsky case saying that what the US President recently went through does not affect him judicially neither in person nor as a president. Boueiz added Israel does not play an innocent role in this case. He also accused Israel of trying to disrupt the Clinton rule as a result of his objective stances regarding a number of Arab issues. The foreign minister's statements were reported by the head of the editors' syndicate in Lebanon, Melhem Karam. Boueiz also reportedly downplayed the possibility of an Arab summit to be held soon.
The newly appointed Azeri ambassador to Lebanon today praised Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri's state visit to Azerbijan saying the visit opened new doors for wide-scale economic cooperation between the two countries.
Azerbijan's ambassador also stressed the importance of activating bilateral ties between Lebanon and Azerbijan on all levels and in all sectors. The Azeri official recently arrived in Beirut coming from Cairo. He is expected to present his credentials to President Elias Al-Hrawi next Monday.
Another batch of Lebanese expatriates in the Democratic Republic of Congo arrived early this morning at Beirut's International Airport on board a Nigerian plane chartered by the Lebanese community in the troubled African republic where rebels are fighting against the government of Laurent Diseret Kabela. The direct Kinshasa-Beirut flight carried 200 Lebanese, mostly women and children. A great number of them are also Southerners.
They were received by the director general of the Immigrants Ministry, Haytham Joumaa and the first vice president of the Lebanese Cultural League, Ahmad Nasser.
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