Thursday, 8 May 2008


Last updated Friday 1.34am

Wednesday 7 May—National strike against low wages.
A trade union protest demanding a rise in the minumum wage came under attack by Future Current gangs from the governing coalition.

The demonstration was "re-routed" the night before by the government. The national strike set for the day turned into a mass stay away -- both because of fear and as part of the the protest.

The demo, called by the General Labour Union, was due to gather in the Barbir area of west Beirut, but armed government thugs stopped the workers gathering.

Clashes developed between Future gangs and those from the opposition Amal movement (Shia vs Sunni). Across the country, including the Sunni areas of Saida, in the south, and Tripoli in the north, there were small anti-government protests.

Opposition demonstrators have blocked the airport road, in response pro-government supporters closed the Beirut-Damascus highway in the Bekaa Valley. There were some confrontations. The night was quiet, but it was very difficult to cross the city.


By the morning a defacto frontline of burning tyres developed between government and opposition areas. Gangs armed with rocks and sticks clashed along the edges of their neighbourhoods. By the afternoon the weapons came out.

These gangs have become quasi militias vying with the army for control over major road junctions.

The army was attempting to keep the sides apart.

We joined in the panic buying of supplies. Bread, pasta and rice are flying off the shelves. Most people are staying in their homes.

By early afternoon there were a series of explosions, followed by the rattle of machineguns.

Hizbollah and their allies in the Free Patriotic Movement -- a mainly Christian organisation who support the opposition -- have not yet entred the fray.

Hassan Nasrallah addressed the nation in the evening, he threatened to attack those who attack Hizbollah. Earlier, a senior Sunni cleric called on Sunnis to turn against on the government.

Heavy exchange of fire followed Nasralla's broadcast. There are rumours that fighting has spread to Druze areas of west Beirut. We can hear gunfire echo across the city.

Hariri appeared on TV later and mocked Nasrallah's speech.

News is filtering through that the army has sent two groups of officers to broker a truce, and Amal gunmen have captured an office belonging to the Future Current.

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