Relative calm prevailed today in South Lebanon following three days of Israeli attacks which culminated late yesterday in an Israeli helicopter raid carried out against a Lebanese army position in the Western Bekaa Valley. One Lebanese soldier was seriously wounded in the attack. Ahmad Akanan was injured when missiles launched from Israeli helicopter gunships targeted his unit situated on a road leading to the Bekaai village of Maydoon. Akanan was today transferred to the American University Hospital in Beirut for further treatment.
In another development, An-Nahar newspaper today reported Israeli navy forces prevented five officers working for the Israeli allied militia in the South from escaping through the Naqoura harbour.
The five-nation cease-fire monitoring group is expected to meet next Monday at the UNIFIL's headquarters in Naqoura. The meeting will discuss five complaints over violations of the April understanding. Lebanon is expected to file three complaints which mainly focus on the injury of six Lebanese civilians and three Syrian soldiers and damage to civilian property during Israeli shelling of civilians areas in the South and the Western Bekaa.
These attacks targeted the villages of Gargoua, Arab Saleem, Mashghara and Ain Al-Teeneh. Israel's two complaints will be lodged over resistance Katyusha attacks on Northern Israel as well as alleged resistance shelling of the town of Ramya inside Israel.
Washington and Paris called upon Lebanon and Israel to exercise more self-control. The US yesterday expressed sorrow at the escalating situation in South Lebanon calling upon the International Monitoring Group to hold an emergency meeting soon. For its part, France called for reducing tension in the South, expressing great concern at the continuous fighting. France also stressed the importance of safeguarding and activating the April Understanding in a bid to reach the unconditional implementation of UN Resolution 425.
Following its weekly session, cabinet last night condemned recent Israeli attacks on South Lebanon and the Western Bekaa. Cabinet also reiterated the importance of adherence to the April 1996 cease-fire understanding. The session was held at Baabda and it was headed by President Elias Al-Hrawi and attended by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and the ministers.
At the opening of the session, Hrawi strongly condemned Israeli violence in the South stressing the importance of preserving the April Understanding and rejecting any plans aimed at eliminating it.
Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz heads this evening for South Africa to participate in a summit of non-allied countries that will be held on the 2nd and 3rd of September. Boueiz will brief the summit on recent Israeli threats on Lebanon, its daily attacks on Lebanese civilians, and its continued torture of Lebanese prisoners in its jails. The foreign minister held this afternoon a press conference discussing recent Israeli attacks against civilians and stressing it dangerous consequences.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri will this evening visit Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam at his residence in Bloudan. Khaddam will host a dinner for Hariri and Minister of the War Displaced Walid Jumblatt.
The meeting is apparently held to reconcile Hariri and Jumblatt after a war-of-words which escalated between them recently over issues related to the war displaced file. Khaddam, Hariri and Jumblatt will also discuss recent developments in South Lebanon and the region.
The premier earlier today visited the Maronite Archbishop headquarters in Ain Saadeh where he held talks with Archbishop Boulous Matar.
The Arab league Secretary General Issmat Abdel Majid today opened in Lebanon an Arab conference on Legal Arbitration in economic and trade conflicts. The forum was held in Beirut's chamber of commerce and industry in the presence of Justice Minister Bahij Tabbara and a number of government officials, judges and dignitaries. Abdel Majid stressed the importance of such a meeting and reiterated the Arab League's continuous support for the arbitration committee.
In Baabda last night, Information Minister Bassem Al-Sabaa told reporters cabinet approved a proposal enabling the state-run Tele Liban to conclude a pact with ArabSat. The pact aims at helping the station to begin its satellite broadcasting soon. Sabaa added cabinet had earlier allocated a sum of 800,000 US dollars for this purpose.
Starting October 1, daytime rates of international phone calls will be reduced by 35 per cent and nighttime rates by 45 to 55 per cent. The deal was signed earlier this week by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri in his capacity as minister of post and telecommunications. The ministry also announced yesterday that the reductions would include cellular phones. The move is aimed at boosting personal and business contacts between resident and immigrant Lebanese.
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