Friday 8 February 2008

Under The bombs

One of the finest films you will see on war and loss. Catch it if you can. Release date for the UK is 21 March 2008

Thursday 7 February 2008


Corrections to earlier posts:

Contrary to Nicolas Blanford's information (which always seems to come from March 14), nobody from the Shia areas charged into the Christian neighbourhood of Ain Rummaneh. This has been confirmed by the mayor.

And the shooting of members of the Progressive Socialist Party turns out to be a duel between PSP and FUTURE (both allies in the March 14 alliance) on who controls the distribution of satellite television cable in the area of Aramoun.

There is a video (in Arabic) of the confrontation at:

Thanks to Ghassan for these clarifications

After Bloody Sunday

Nicholas Blanford of The Christian Science Monitor reports on the rising sectarian tensions following "Black Sunday", when the army (and others as yet unadentified gunmen) killed seven fuel protesters in a Shia neighbourhood:

The events of that day have spurred intense accusations and recriminations from rival political factions, further souring already strained sectarian tensions in Beirut and stoking worries of more violence to come.

It has also placed the Lebanese Army on the defensive as it struggles to maintain its neutrality, even as its soldiers in recent days have come under rifle fire and grenade attack, apparent reprisals for last month's deaths.

The Army is the one state institution to have remained neutral in Lebanon's worsening political crisis. Many Lebanese believe that the military alone is preventing the country from sliding into chaos, and worry about the consequences of the Army disintegrating along political lines...

As news of the shootings spread through the neighborhood, residents say dozens of men carrying rifles and rocket-propelled grenades headed toward the scene, before being persuaded to turn back by Hizbullah commanders.

However, some angry Shiite demonstrators charged into the adjacent Christian neighborhood of Ain Rummaneh, damaging cars and breaking windows before troops could disperse them.

Tensions between Ain Rummaneh and the adjacent Shiite neighborhood, Shiyyah, have existed since the 1975-90 civil war. The former Green Line dividing east and west Beirut during the war runs down the street separating the two quarters, and some buildings still bear the scars of that earlier conflict.

Although the main sectarian fault-line in today's political crisis is between Shiites and Sunnis, tensions have been building once more between Shiyyah and Ain Rummaneh, residents say.

Wednesday 6 February 2008

Druze attacked

Press TV reports:

Unidentified gunmen have attacked members of Walid Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) in Beirut's suburb, wounding two of them.

PSP members Nizar Monzer and Ahmed Ghoson were wounded by automatic rifle bullets fired at them in Dawhet Aramoun before dawn on Sunday, Police confirmed saying an investigation was launched into the attack.

Tuesday 5 February 2008

Egyptians open fire

Egyptian riot police have opened fire on Palestinians who were protesting along its border with the Gaza Strip. According to reports:

A Palestinian has been shot dead and five people wounded, including two Egyptian border guards, in an exchange of fire along the Gaza-Egypt border, Palestinian medics and Egypt's news agency Mena say.

In addition to the three other Palestinians shot and wounded, 12 people were treated for tear-gas inhalation.

The injuries occurred after Egyptian police opened fire to disperse a protest by a crowd of angry Gazans, medics said.

Mena said two policemen were shot and wounded on Egypt's side of the border, after witnesses had earlier reported three policemen were shot.

IMF report

The Daily Star quotes a glowing report on the Lebanese economy by the International Monetary Fund (IMF):

"Lebanon's ability to navigate rough waters is not fortuitous. Despite the large debt overhang and external vulnerabilities, investors and depositors, at present, are comforted first and foremost by the perception of an implicit guarantee from donors, but also by Lebanon's track record of zero default, and the country's large liquidity cushion."

See below for the reality behind this success.

Forgotten children

The AFP news agency has a shocking report on the lost generation of child workers in Tripoli:

Officials estimate that at least 100,000 children, or one in 10 up to 18 years of age, work in Lebanon, mainly in the agriculture sector or as mechanics as well as in jewelery workshops and sweatshops.

"The 10 to 15 age group is the most affected," Nabil Watfa of the International Labour Organisation office in Beirut told AFP. "But children as young as eight have also been noted to work.

"These kids, the majority of them boys, work handling chemicals, in garages, in metal-welding shops, carpentry, marble cutting and in farms where they are exposed to pesticides."

Most of the child labourers hail from the northern regions of Akkar and Tripoli, where many families live below the poverty line.
Others work in the eastern Bekaa Valley and in the south of the country, where poverty is also endemic and the main industry is agriculture, including tobacco plantations.

In Bab al-Tebbene, a rough neighbourhood in the northern city of Tripoli, a majority of the mechanics or scrap metal shops that line the streets employ children.

The kids can be seen welding, using dangerous machinery, or handling toxic chemicals, all with no protective gear.

Picture: Ahmed Saifeddin Danash (top) works at a mechanics shop and Yunes Awad (above) pauses during his work

Monday 4 February 2008

Gaza winners

Mark Mackinnon of Canada's Globe and Mail provides a good update on the new realities created by the end of the Gaza siege:

Hamas said that it had reached an agreement with the Egyptian government to temporarily close the border, and that it would soon reopen.

"We have concluded an agreement between us and our brothers in Egypt to operate channels at the local level at the crossing and along the border," Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said.

While Egyptian officials gave no reaction to Mr. Zahar's assertion, any pact between Egypt and Hamas would be seen as a victory for the Islamists, putting an end to months of diplomatic isolation in the wake of their armed takeover of the Gaza Strip.

Locked in a power struggle with the Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas already received a boost to its popular image from the spectacular way it broke Israel's blockade.

Sunday 3 February 2008

Crime of the century

Army behind Beirut shootings

Press TV reports:

A Lebanese judge has ordered the arrest of three army officers and eight soldiers in the killing of Shia protesters in Beirut last week.

Authorities had listened to 85 civilian witness statements and questioned 120 military personnel, said a statement issued by Judge Jean Fahd on Saturday.

"The investigation is still continuing with a large number of civilian witnesses and a number of soldiers," it added.

Lebanese troops had opened fire to break up an opposition protest over power cuts after the demonstrators burned tires and blocked roads in a mainly Shia Muslim suburb of Beirut last Sunday.

Seven supporters of Hezbollah and an ally from Amal were killed and some 30 protesters were also wounded in the violence, the worst clash in Beirut since a year ago.