Following Israel's latest threat to strike Lebanese infrastructure, Lebanon responded by saying the solution does not lie in the use of force but in just and comprehensive peace and in Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories, an important condition for achieving such a peace in the region. The Israeli threats were launched by Israel's Internal Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani who called for striking infrastructure in Lebanon whenever Israeli soldiers are killed in the South. During a tour in northern Israel, Kahalani stated that bridges, electricity, and water resources in Lebanon should be hit each time one Israeli soldier is killed in the country.
In this regard, wide contacts are expected to be held in the next few days between the Lebanese and the Syrian leaderships. The two countries will also discuss a possible date for a presidential summit between Lebanese President Elias Al-Hrawi and Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad.
Israeli threats to attack Lebanon's infrastructure were launched yesterday amidst intensive Israeli shelling of villages in South Lebanon and the Western Bekaa which resulted in the injury of civilian, Hassan Amin Nathar in the town of Arab Saleem. Nathar was taken to the Nabatieh hospital for treatment. Israeli warplanes carried out air raids on Mazraat Okmata. Its artillery also targeted the riverbank of Habboush, Wadi Al-Kfour and the village of Joun in Iqlim Al-Kharroub where a shell fell on a civilian home without exploding. The owner of the house and around 40 civilians who were inside were miraculously saved. Other shells fell around the house and in other areas of the village blazing fires in its fields. Israel also bombarded the hills of Mleeta, Sojod, Lowaizeh, Rayhan, Jabal Al-Rafii, Mazraat Okmata, Ain Bouswar, and Gargoua. More than 15 shells fell on the hills of Mleeta. The shelling caused fires in many fields and plantations.
The Lebanese resistance last night retaliated to Israel's escalation by shelling Israeli positions in Swaydaa, Al-Ghezlan, Bir Kallab, and Sojod. Direct hits were scored among Israeli soldiers and their allies in these outposts. An Israeli military spokesman today admitted two Israeli soldiers were killed on the resistance operation against Sojod.
Meanwhile, the Amal Movement announced yesterday one of its groups carried out an operation against an Israeli patrol near the Qalaa outpost in the Central Sector of the occupied zone. The movement's operations also targeted two Israeli allied militia patrols in the same area. Amal said a number of casualties fell among enemy forces in the operations.
Witnesses in the occupied zone reported a unit of the Israeli allied militia fought with members of the Norwegian battalion working under UNIFIL in the South. Heavily armed members in the militia had tried to enter the village of Kawkaba but were prevented by a Norwegian checkpoint in the village. On their way back to Hasbayya, the militia's group encountered a Norwegian convoy of soldiers. The allies attacked the UNIFIL soldiers and detained them for some time. They were released upon intervention by Norwegian and Israeli high-ranking officers.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri last night gave a live interview to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI). The interview was conducted live from the Grand Saray, the new government house. The premier told his interviewers the upcoming presidential elections is a very important event which reflects upon political life in the country. He added the current situation in the country calls for a president who can impose change. The premier called for reaching a new electoral law in this regard. For his part, Hariri seemed confident of his return to office following the expected presidential elections in the fall.
On the project of the public sector pay scales and salaries, Hariri said this will be delayed for the next presidential term. He also specified some procedures that should be followed in a bid to deal with the economic situation in the country such as the reduction and eventual abolition of budget deficit and the abstinence from expenditure without providing sources of income. Hariri added economic and financial matters should not be politicized. He also stressed the importance of administrative reform in the country.
On the subject of Jezzine, Hariri said the residents of Jezzine are facing a very difficult situation. He added casualties that fall in this occupied area are not caused by the Lebanese Resistance.
House Speaker Nabih Berri headed to Bloudan where he is expected to hold talks with Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam. Discussions are expected to center on a number of internal and regional developments. Berri had met yesterday in parliament a delegation of residents from the occupied area of Jezzine. The house speaker said Jezzine forms a very important part of the country and its suffering reflects upon the whole country.
Cabinet was held last night for the first time at the Grand Saray after undergoing rehabilitation and reconstruction. The session was headed by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and attended by the ministers. Cabinet yesterday approved a proposal to equally divide the 36 broadcast frequencies among the six TV stations: LBC, FTV, Manar, NBN. TL, and MTV.
The proposal was endorsed amidst the objection of some ministers. But Information Minister Bassem Al-Sabaa, who announced the decisions of cabinet's session, later told reporters the decree would help improve the quality of technical broadcasting. Cabinet also agreed on a draft decree related to an agreement between Lebanon and Syrian reducing custom duties on Syrian products by 25% annually starting January 1st, 1999.
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