Sunday, 11 May 2008

Beirut—Sunday 11 May


Update 22.39

More clashes in Tripoli. Government supporters still have a presence on the streets, distributing pictures of the late Rafic Hariri.

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Seems as if the Chouf Mountains have fallen to the opposition in a day of fierce fighting. Early reports are that this was a local uprising against Walid Jumblat involving an alliance of rival Druze families and opposition parties.

The army is following in the wake of the fighting, taking over positions captured by the opposition.

There was a ceasefire at 6pm.

Beirut fell in 4 hours, now the redoubt of the Jumblat clan and the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) has fallen in a day! So far this has been a lightening war by the opposition.

Above is an updated map of today's event (click for details)

(Click here for the main map showing colour key)

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Heavy fighting in Aley, in the heartlands of Walid Jumblat, a key supporter of the government. Early indications are that the opposition has driven off supporters of the government.

It seems Jumblat's militia are battling with supporters of the opposition for control over this crucial Chouf mountain town (see Lebanon map above).

There was savage fighting in Tripoli Friday, with Hariri supporters attacking the mainly Christian neighbourhood of Al-Mina (loyal to Free Patriotic Movement), and clashes between Alawi and Sunni neighbourhoods.

Some more on Thursday's events:
One witness told me that she saw Hizbollah engage Salafi fighters -- a radical Sunni sect with ties to al-Qaeda (and supporters of the government). The Salafis eventually withdrew.

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We took a tour of the Hamra area of west Beirut today. It was quiet, but a few families were venturing out. At first it looks like the army are in control. Their tanks and soldiers are placed in key flashpoints.

But we also saw militia fighters lurking in the alleys and the lobby of buildings.

We were stopped twice, once by security men we assumed were from Amal (part of the opposition) who demanded to know if we were part of the Democratic Left, a pro government group that sold their souls to the US project.

We were stopped again, this time by armed men who mistook one of our group for a DL supporter.

It took some persuading to convince them that we were not supporters of the government. Eventually one of them recognised our friend from TV (he had delivered a speech on the May Day demonstration calling for the government to resign).

The sight of armed men stopping and questioning people is a sad reminder of the war years.

Clarification:
I reported yesterday that the SSNP were firing rockets at Future Current supporters in Tripoli. It appears today that it was the other way round.

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