Lebanon Violence Continues, Hezbollah-Aoun Make New Threats
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said today he is holding back his forces from bringing down the Siniora government for “the sake of peace” but that he could bring down the government tomorrow or the day after.
Even “Loving Life” is under fire in Lebanon…
One of the “I Love Life” campaign billboards put up as a slogan to remind Lebanese to value life and to to live and love life was destroyed during the Hezbollah-Aoun riots yesterday.
A partially burnt billboard sign that reads in Arabic, “I love life” is seen torn on the main highway that leads to Beirut international airport. (AFP)
The US today at talks in Paris announced it would pledge $770 million in aid to help rebuild Lebanon and bolster its embattled Prime Minister Fouad Siniora in his power struggle with Hezbollah.
The money, which requires U.S. congressional approval, will fund budget support, military equipment and projects to help rebuild Lebanese infrastructure shattered in last year’s war between Israel and Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
“The president will request of the Congress $770 million in support for Lebanon,” U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters as she flew to Paris for an international aid donors’ meeting on Thursday that could yield billions of dollars for Lebanon.
“Yesterday’s events, if anything, make more important a message from the international community that it supports the democratically elected government of Lebanon and that there should not be violence or efforts at intimidation to try and make governing more difficult for the prime minister,” Rice told reporters traveling with her.
Asked if Hezbollah had the power to topple Siniora, she said: “I assume that they would not want to plunge Lebanon into open conflict and to kill lots of innocent Lebanese to pursue their political goals.”
Pro-government gunmen take position in the Bab al-Tabbaneh area in the port-city of Tripoli in north Lebanon during clashes between government loyalists and opposition followers in north Lebanon January 24, 2007. (REUTERS/Omar Ibrahim)
Aoun made new threats as fighting broke out between factions during a funeral procession in Tripoli today.
The Daily Star reported:
Nasrallah’s comments came after his ally, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, promised “more surprises” in the coming days, saying every action by the anti-government forces would depend on the reaction of the government.
In a news conference held at his Rabieh residence Wednesday, Aoun warned the pro-government forces: “You can’t imagine what we have in store.”
This came as opposing factions clashed for a second day in the North Lebanese city of Tripoli on Wednesday, leaving two wounded people.
Tripoli, the country’s second largest city, saw some of the heaviest fighting on Tuesday during the general strike called by the Hizbullah-led opposition.
The fighting broke out Wednesday in Tripoli during the funeral of one of two men killed a day earlier, witnesses said. As some 2,000 government supporters headed for the cemetery in the Sunni neighborhood of Tabbaneh, some mourners fired assault rifles in the air in a traditional sign of mourning.
Gunmen on an overlooking hill in the rival neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen – a stronghold of the pro-opposition Alawites, a Shiite offshoot sect – opened fire, sending many mourners into a panic to escape the area.
A battle ensued, involving automatic-rifle fire and the tossing of at least two grenades, according to witnesses and security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Civilians run for cover in the Bab al-Tabbaneh area in the port-city of Tripoli in north Lebanon during clashes between government loyalists and opposition followers January 24, 2007. (REUTERS/Omar Ibrahim)
Hezbollah “officials” in Lebanon did not appreciate that President Bush included the terror group with Al Qaeda during his talk last night:
An official from a top Shiite party in Iraq bristled at Bush’s remarks, but some Sunni politicians welcomed his focus on the danger from Shiite militias, as well as Sunni insurgents.
“Comparing Shiite militias to Al-Qaeda is ridiculous,” said the Shiite official, who asked not to be identified.
“They are protecting their own communities after a three-year onslaught by terrorists and only a few outlaws take revenge. How are the militias a threat to the United States?”
There was no immediate official reaction from Tehran.
Michael Totten displays pictures of the “Two Lebanons” today… a Striking difference!