Posted by: Lister | May 10, 2008

A misunderstanding

The Lebanese Government is calling Hezbollah’s acts a coup, that they didn’t mean to declare war, and never would:

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has said his country will not fall to Hezbollah after four days of street battles in the capital left 24 dead.

In his first response to Hezbollah’s de facto takeover of West Beirut, Mr Siniora said his government would never declare war against the Shia group.

[…] Lebanon’s cabinet said on Friday the seizure of most of western Beirut by the Shia group was “a bloody coup”.

[…] The latest violence amounts to a humiliating blow to the government, which appears to have badly overplayed its hand in moving to close Hezbollah’s telecoms network on Tuesday, our correspondent says.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called the move a “declaration of war”.

Mr Hariri said it was a “misunderstanding” and urged gunmen from both sides to withdraw “to save Lebanon from hell”.

The Lebanese army is now acting to end the crisis:

Lebanon’s army has overturned two key government measures in an attempt to defuse tensions between the pro-western government and Shia group Hezbollah.

The army said the Hezbollah-allied head of security at Beirut airport should remain in his post and the group’s phone network be maintained.

[…] A Hezbollah statement said: “The Lebanese opposition will end all armed presence in Beirut so that the capital will be in the hands of the army.”

But they’ll continue with the protests that have been going on for more than a year.

It’s not quite playing football in no-man’s land, and the fighting isn’t as vicious as WW1, but here’s a story from Robert Fisk:

Mr Hariri’s Future Television offices were invested by the army after Hizbollah surrounded it on Thursday night, its staff evacuated and the station switched off. When I turned up there yesterday morning, I joined a queue for manouche – Lebanon’s hot cheese breakfast sandwiches – at Eyman’s bakery in Watwat Street. I patiently waited behind four black-hooded gunmen from Hizbollah’s allied (but highly venal) Amal movement only to find uniformed Lebanese soldiers representing the government patiently queuing at the next window. Law and disorder, it seems, both have to eat.

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