Monday, 12 May 2008

Beirut—Monday 12 May


Map shows the major clashes since Thursday.

Updated 00.12

A day of truce. Everyone is taking stock of yesterday's events. The army announced that as from Tuesday all armed groups must leave the streets.

A friend from the Dahieh says that everything is open and the Shia district is calm. But there are security people everywhere stopping and questioning young men.

There were the first funerals of Hizbollah fighters today, meanwhile there are rumours of the murder of captured fighters.

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We took the opportunity to restock the fridge. Prices for imported meat in the supermarket have dropped by 18 percent. Street markets are full of fresh produce.

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Michel Aoun, the head of the opposition Free Pratriotic Movement, appeared on TV to reassure the Christians that Hizbollah would will not enter their areas under a deal signed in 2006.

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The Jerusalem Post gives an Israeli view of events.

Irin, the UN news agency has by far the best overview.

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Met a couple of Palestinian friends, they are easy to spot these days as they have huge grins their faces. One told me that he can know travel from Beirut to the southern city of Saida without worrying about Future Current security people.

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We took a tour of the city at 6am this morning, driving from east Beirut along the marina, through the hotel district and into west Beirut near the AUB (American University of Beirut). The army had its big guns out.

The night before there were militiamen of the far right Kataeb party posted outside their headquarters on the dividing line between east and west Beirut. In the morning they were replaced by an armoured car, its guns pointed at party offices.

The army's French made armour was on display in the downtown area. Little did the US and France know that all the weapons sent to upgrade the army for a showdown with the resistance are instead taking aim at the western backed government.

The majority Shia Muslim and Christian areas are peaceful, the battles are mainly taking place in the mixed areas, with the resistance and its allies in the opposition driving out pro government forces very quickly indeed.

It is without a doubt that the army is backing the opposition. It is stepping into to battles to disarm pro government forces, taking over captured positions and seizing any arms. The thinking is that the head of the army and possible president, Michel Suleiman, is clearing any opposition to his appointment from the ruling coalition.

Dozens of street cleaners where pouring into the central district during the morning, to keep it clean no doubt.