Friday, 11 July 2008

Ballance of fear

Amos Harel of Haaretz on the ballance of fear between Israel and Hizbollah:

Two years on, the balance of the Second Lebanon War remains negative for Israel, yet with time it seems to become even more complicated.

Deterrence is a key question because it will determine to a large degree if, and when, the next war will break out. Immediately after the war, there were speculations that exposing the weakness of the [army], government and even Israeli society would necessarily lead to another attack on Israel.

This has not happened so far, although Israel provided Syria at least with a perfect excuse to do so, by bombing the Syrian nuclear facility last September.

Hezbollah has also refrained for the past two years from any provocation along the northern border. The quiet there was disrupted on two occasions by isolated Katyusha fire, in both cases by a radical Sunni faction.

It appears that Israel did not pay enough attention to the impact of the huge damage it caused Lebanon's Shi'ite population - from the Dahia in Beirut to south Lebanon.

The Israeli message that another round would lead to worse destruction is understood better in Beirut than in Jerusalem. Fear is one of the things restraining Hezbollah today.

The worst result [for Israel] was the near total ending of the arrangements stipulated in Resolution 1701 (that ended the war).

Arms smuggling across the Syrian border has become a flood. Although the organization's presence along the border with Israel has disappeared, Hezbollah has rehabilitated its military infrastructure in south Lebanon and is now concentrating it in the Shi'ite villages.

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The China news agency reports on the latest secatarain confrontations:

The death toll in fierce clashes between government supporters and opponents in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Wednesday rose to five, with 64 others injured.

The Lebanese army is carrying a redeployment plan in the north early Thursday to separate Alawite fighters in Baal Mohsen from Sunni fighters in Bab Tabbaneh.

Sources in Tripoli said the army maintained its deployment in Bab Tabbaneh, and some of its troops have been hit by sniper fire form Baal Mohsen.

The fighting erupted on Wednesday after four grenades were fired at a street separating the districts.

Explosions and machine-gun fire raged Tripoli as Sunni supporters of the government and Alawite gunmen close to the Shiite militant group Hezbollah-led opposition battled on the outskirts of the second largest port city of Lebanon.

Meanwhile, tension is mounting overnight in the west Beirut districts of Qasqas and Tariq Jedideh, where residents set fire to tires and blocked traffic to protest against the assualt on two government partisans by opposiotn Amal supporters.

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