Hezbollah takes over West-Beirut (1)



 
PART 1 of MENASSAT'S news blog about the crisis in Lebanon.
 
BY MENASSAT.COM STAFF
 
05Beirut080508.jpg
© Samer Mohdad / arabimages.com

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POSTED AT 3:55 PM ON FRIDAY, MAY 9, 2008

*** Hezbollah's press office just called to make sure we had received Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah's apology to the media.

*** The old Future TV building in Raouche is burning - AL-JAZEERA


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POSTED AT 3:49 PM ON FRIDAY, MAY 9, 2008

*** THESE IMAGES FROM AL-ARABIYA ARE SOMETHING WE THOUGHT WE WOULD NEVER SEE AGAIN IN BEIRUT:



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POSTED AT 3:40 PM ON FRIDAY, MAY 9, 2008

*** ASSAD: LEBANESE CRICIS IS "INTERNAL MATTER"

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says Lebanon's political crisis is an 'internal matter,' which should be resolved through dialogue.

Assad made the remarks in Damascus at a meeting with visiting Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. During the meeting, the two shared thoughts on the regional situation, particularly the ongoing strife in Lebanon.

On the third day of unrest in Beirut, opposition supporters took full control of several neighborhoods in fighting with forces loyal to the Western-backed government.

The fighting was sparked on Tuesday, by a government move to shut down Hezbollah's telecoms network.

At least 11 people, mainly civilians, have been killed and dozens injured in three days of clashes in the city.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council has urged the rival parties to stop the fight, while an imminent civil war is feared.

SOURCE: PRESS TV, IRAN


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POSTED AT 3:21 PM ON FRIDAY, MAY 9, 2008

*** We have received the following statement by Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah from the National News Agency (rough translation):

"We are sorry about everything that has happened to the press corps. But the government is to blame for letting things get this far. We hold the government fully responsible for evrything that has happened to the media. We hope these media will be operating again soon under the control of the Lebanese army."


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POSTED AT 3:21 PM ON FRIDAY, MAY 9, 2008

*** We have received from the National News Agency a statement signed by a number of journalists and media figures that said:

"We reject any manipulation of the press and media, journalists and photographers no matter what political party they belong to. We call on all parties to fully respect the freedom of information, opinion and expression in all circumstances... We declare our condemnation of all attacks against any journalist or photographer, and all media personnel, and we consider any attack of any kind, as an attack on all of us, that will push us to confront it by all means and forms ...  We ask all media staff to be at the level of the risk and challenges that our country is living."


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POSTED AT 3:14 PM ON FRIDAY, MAY 9, 2008

*** Al-Arabiya is reporting that Saudi Arabia is evacuating all its citizens from Lebanon.

*** OTV is reporting that the majority of fighters in the streets are Amal not Hezbollah.

*** LBCI is reporting that armed militia are attacking the old Future TV building in Raouche.


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POSTED AT 3:11 PM ON FRIDAY, MAY 9, 2008

We just ordered food from George Farah -- hey it was worth a try. "Yes, we deliver but tell me: are they shooting around your building?" Well, we can hear it but it's not too close. So food delivery continues in East Beirut while fighting continues in West Beirut.

Also, Al-Arabiya is reporting that PSP leader Walid Jumblatt has called Amal leader Nabih Berri and asked for protection for him and his people. In exchange, Jumblatt will hand over all PSP positions to Amal.


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POSTED AT 2:58 PM ON FRIDAY, MAY 9, 2008

11 PEOPLE KILLED IN FIGHTING SO FAR - AP

At least 11 people have been killed and more than 20 wounded in three days of street battles and gunfights, security officials said.

About 100 Shiite Hezbollah militants wearing camouflage uniforms and carrying assault rifles marched down Hamra Street, a normally vibrant commercial strip in a mainly Sunni area of Beirut. They took up positions in corners and sidewalks and stopped the few cars braving the empty streets to search their trunks.

On nearby streets, dozens of fighters from another Hezbollah-allied party appeared, some wearing masks and carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Read more.

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POSTED AT 2:27 PM ON FRIDAY, MAY 9, 2008

Los Angeles Times Beirut correspondent Borzou Daragahi is blogging about his experiences with the Amal militia in South Beirut.

LEBANON: Getting close to the fire

Pictures_006a

Borzou2By Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Things started to calm down when the bespectacled nebbish young man with a bandage over the bridge of his nose showed up.

He was short, pudgy and wore a plaid shirt buttoned to the top of his neck. And unlike the other Shiite militiamen who had detained us and taken away our cameras and identification cards, he refused to shake hands with the women.

But the frantic, black-clad Amal party militiamen clearly looked upon this fellow with respect. Once he arrived, the militiamen became calmer and more respectful toward us. They started offering us Pepsi, cigarettes and gum. After being detained by a gang of Shiite militiamen for nearly an hour during Lebanon's troubles today, we were confident we'd be soon be released.

Read more: "LEBANON: Getting close to the fire" »


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POSTED AT 2:03 PM ON FRIDAY, MAY 9, 2008

BY MENASSAT.COM STAFF

Armed units from Hezbollah have taken over most of West Beirut in an apparent attempt to put the militants of Saad Hariri's Mustaqbal (Future) party out of action.

The offices of al-Mustaqbal, the newspaper of the government party Mustaqbal (Future) have been destroyed. Future TV and Future News, two TV stations belonging to Saad Hariri's party, have been ordered to stop broadcasting or face the consequences.

These armed forces are not presenting themselves as Hezbollah or even Mukawama (The Resistance) but quite simply as Kouha Al-Mourada (The Opposition). According to some sources about 2,000 Hezbollah combattants came to Beirut from South Lebanon in full battle gear.

In Hamra, a mixed Sunni-Christian area that is heavily pro-government, it looked like Hezbollah was flushing out armed militants of the Future Party who had come down to Beirut earlier this week from North Lebanon to prepare for a confrontation with Hezbollah.


Shi'ite opposition gunmen shoot with their rifles during clashes with
pro-government supporters in a street in Beirut May 8, 2008.
REUTERS/ Ezzat Attar


Omar Harkous, a journalist with al-Mustaqbal, was still stuck in the Mustaqbal office when we spoke to him today. He was supposed to leave early on Thursday night but because of the events in the streets they were forced to spend the night. There were six employees present in all.

At six in the morning today, they started to hear voices; moments they were under attack with RPG's. One exploded at the door of the office where Harkous was working. The fourth and fifth floor were totally burned. The first three floors were heavily damaged.

Apparently, the attacking forces were under the impression that Al-Mustaqbal militia were holed up in the building.

After an hour of shooting, the Hezbollah fighters arrived at the building at the same time as the Lebanese army arrived on the spot.

A ceasefire followed during which Hezbollah retreated and took up positions in surrounding buildings.

Only one of the al-Mustaqbal staff was wounded.

Subsequently, the army occupied the newspaper building and the staff has not been allowed to leave.

According to Harkous, he got a phone call from a journalist colleague and friend close to Hezbollah who told him "We have nothing to do with this. This is a special unit."

Following this, the army entered the newspaper building.

Harkous says he doesn't take sides in the political situation in Lebanon but that is not acceptable to treat any media like this, saying, "This is not Gaza; this is Beirut."

At Future TV and  Future News in the Spears/Kantari area, a similar scenario took place although without violence.

There were very few people at Future TV and Future News at night, all had been given the order to leave except A skeleton staff, including Future boss Nadim Al-Moula.

According to Al-Moula, in an interview with LBCI, Hezbollah militia entered the building of Future News and demanded to know which camera was being used to broadcast. They then turned it off, and proceeded to destroy all the digital footage. According to Al-Moula it will be impossible to restart broadcasting before several weeks.

In an interview with the Voice of Lebanon radio today, al-Moula said he plans to start broadcasting again as soon as possible, adding that he has received threats that he will be bombed if he does so.

So far, the fighting has been limited to West Beirut, which is mainly Sunni Muslim. East Beirut, which is mainly Christian, has seen no fighting and shops are open there as usual.

The MENASSAT staff had to evacuate the office last night after Nasralla's speech. Our offices are on the former Green Line and we were caught up in the general chaos of a Hezbollah operation into Ras el Nabeh.

Today, all is quiet in the area.