Thursday 18 September 2008

Resistance vs resistance

According to Naharnet:

Lebanese Army units contained a quarrel between partisans of the Lebanese Communist Party and AMAL movement in the southern village of Kfar Rumman overnight.

The quarrel started after AMAL partisans tried to knock down a monument erected by the LCP to commemorate "martyrs" of the Lebanese National Resistance Front (LNRF), the leftist alliance that fought invading Israeli troops in the 1980s.

Kfar Rumman was a main base for LNRF resistance fighters before Hizbullah established control over south Lebanon in the early 1990s.

Several LNRF fighters were killed in combat against Israeli troops and several others were liquidated in serial assassinations that targeted leftist activists in Beirut and south Lebanon in the late 1980s.

The bodies of at least nine LNRF fighters remain in Israel and have not been included in the recent swap between Hizbullah and the Jewish state.

Beirut synagogue

Bloomberg posts an interesting account of attempts to rebuild the synagogue in Beirut:

In 1983, Isaac Arazi and his wife were caught in sectarian fighting during Lebanon's 15-year civil war. A Shiite Muslim militiaman helped the couple escape.

Arazi, a leader of Lebanon's tiny Jewish community, sees the incident as a lesson in the Arab country's tradition of tolerance. Now he is trying to make use of that tradition, along with the global diaspora of Lebanese Jews, in a drive to rebuild Beirut's only synagogue, damaged during the war.

"Those who don't have a past don't have a future,'' Arazi said to explain his push to rebuild the synagogue.

Beirut's Maghen Abraham Synagogue opened in 1926 in Wadi Abou Jmil, the city's Jewish quarter, located on the edge of west Beirut near the Grand Serai palace, where the government meets, and within walking distance of parliament.

Lebanon then was something of a haven for Jews, some of whom were the descendants of those who had fled the Spanish inquisition; it later served a similar role for refugees from Nazi Germany.

With "no history of anti-Jewish tensions,'' it was the only Arab country whose Jewish population rose after Israel's creation in 1948, according to Kirsten Schulze, a lecturer at the London School of Economics and author of The Jews of Lebanon.

By the mid-1960s, there were as many as 22,000 Lebanese Jews, said Arazi, 65. In addition to heading the Jewish Community Council he owns a food-machinery business with 1,000 customers.

"Christians, Muslims and Jews were all living together when I was growing up,'' said Liza Srour, 57. "Whenever there was a war with Israel, or tension, the government used to provide protection for us.''

That changed with the nation's 1975-1990 civil war, as Jews fled the violence triggered by rivalries among the nation's Christian, Muslim and Druze factions and emigrated to Europe, North and South America.

Now, Arazi said, only 100 Jews live permanently in the country, while another 1,900 go back and forth or have intermarried into other religions. Srour is the only Jew still residing in Wadi Abou Jmil.

In 1982, according to an Associated Press report at the time, Israeli shells tore through roof of Maghen Abraham as the Jewish state invaded southern Lebanon in an effort to crush Palestinian guerrillas. The synagogue has been closed ever since, its brittle entrance gate chained and padlocked. Plaster and rubble are scattered on the floor.

Walking among the weeds overgrowing the cemetery's tombstones, Arazi said: "I remember my father when I come here.''

Image is an artist impression of what the restored building will look like.

Wednesday 17 September 2008

Palestinian vs Palestinian

Reuters reports:

Three Palestinians were killed in fighting between rival factions at a refugee camp in south Lebanon on Monday, security sources said.

The fighting began when gunmen shot dead a member of the Islamist Jund al-Sham militant group in Ain al-Hilweh camp, 40 km (25 miles) south of the capital Beirut.

The killing triggered fierce exchanges of gunfire and grenades between the militants and Fatah gunmen in which a second Jund al-Sham member was killed.

Few hours after the fighting stopped, the father of a senior Fatah official was shot dead by unknown attackers.

Shia vs Sunni

China's Xinhua news agency reports:

Fierce clashes erupted in the town of Taalabaya in Lebanon's Bekaa valley on Tuesday when gunmen opened fire from overlooking hills on a funeral procession for a Sunni victim who was shot dead earlier, local As-Safir daily reported Wednesday.

The victim Abdallah al-Adawi was a member of Future movement headed by MP Saad Hariri.

The Tuesday clashes blocked traffic along the highway connecting the pre-dominantly Shiite village of Taalabaya and Sunni village of Saadnayel, said the report, giving no more details about the clashes.

In June, more than three people died in clashes between Shiite supporter of Hezbollah and Sunni supporters of Future Movement in Taalabya and the neighboring village of Saadnayel.

Christian vs Christian

The BBC reports on an armed tiff between the clan militia loyal to the Franjiehs and the Lebenese Forces. This blood fued dates from the early days of the civil war.

A gunfight between rival Christian political groups in northern Lebanon has left two people dead and three wounded, security officials say.

The clash between the anti-Syrian Lebanese Forces group and the pro-Syrian Marada group was triggered by a disagreement over hanging banners.

On Tuesday, leaders of 14 of Lebanon's rival factions started talks aimed at solving deep divisions in the country.
The army has now set up checkpoints around Bsarma where the clash occurred.

One supporter from each of the Lebanese Forces (LF) group and Marada were killed, reports say, while the injured were a policeman and two LF members.

Marada, led by the pro-Syrian leader Suleiman Franjieh, is allied to the Shia-led Hezbollah. LF is led by former rightwing warlord Samir Geagea, who belongs to the Western-backed alliance led by Sunni politician Saad Hariri.

Tuesday 16 September 2008

Jaw jaw on war war

The Financial Times notes:

The assassination of a pro-Syrian politician has heightened tension in Lebanon, less than a week before talks begin aimed at reconciling deep divisions between the country's factions.

Saleh Aridi, a senior member of the Lebanese Democratic party, which is allied to the militant Shia group Hizbollah, was killed on Wednesday night by a bomb as he started his car at his house in the mountains east of Beirut, the capital.

Aridi was a close adviser of Talal Arsalan, a Druze leader who is a minister in the new unity government and who recently helped bridge differences among the Muslim sect that comprises about 10 per cent of Lebanon's population.

The attack has significant implications for Lebanon's political stability, coming only a day after [the president] Michel Suleiman announced the resumption on September 16 of a "national dialogue" aimed at forming a defence strategy and defining the roles of the army and militias such as Hizbollah.

But the government has been playing down expectations of immediate progress.