Friday, May 9, 2008

A Wild Day in Beirut

Street Notes from the Hamra District


"......Hezbollah appears in complete control of West Beirut.

1. According to the guys manning the Berms on airport road the airport will stayed closed until the 'three conditions' are met i.e the pro-US government pledges to keep its hands off the optic fiber telecommunication network of the Resistance, the Government reinstates head of Airport Security Wafiq Shouqair, and agrees to a dialogue. Until that happens, West Beirut and the Airport will stay closed.

2. This observer was amazed to see and learn that Hezbollah/Amal also are deployed all over Mt. Lebanon. Approaching a Druze area, near the Kamal Jumblatt Hospital in Choufeit close to 1 p.m. today I turned down a side road to make a telephone call at one of the phone shops. I was shocked to see approximately 80 heavily armed fighters. "Oh”, I thought to myself, “finally I see Jumblatt's militia." As I pulled up to the phone store several fighters approached my motorcycle—which is well known in Dahiyeh. "Habibee!", one young man called as he put his free arm around me. Turns out he is a neighbor of mine from Harek Hreik. "What are you doing here with PSP (Druze militia?)", I lamely ask. "No, no, we are all Hezbollah and Amal here!
How is that possible in Jumblatt territory? "Khalas, there is no Jumblatt territory! We and our friends are all throughout the mountains. We are ready to fight both the Zionists and anyone else who wants to fight us

After a while, one is able to distinguish in Hamra the difference between Amal and Hezbollah fighters from a block away. The former tend to be smaller, more thin, randomly dressed and sometimes hooded, a bit unkempt, fun-loving and happy to pose for photos and joke. Hezbollah by contrast are polite but all business with an obvious command structure and a tested professionalism. Several this morning look surprised at seeing someone riding around the area and advised: "Please go to your home. We don't know what will happen"......

Jumblatt has not just been humiliated in the mountains but also in his Beirut residence at Clemenceau near AUB. When I drove by en route to Hamra Street I saw about 75 fighters outside his home. I was surprised to learn they were not Jumblatt's protectors but once more Hezbollah/Amal. "Maybe he will invite us to lunch. We have orders not to harm him." I was later to learn that the Army rescued Jumblatt around 11:30 am, and he is said to be rethinking his options......

It appears in order to calm the atmosphere in Lebanon right now and remove the berms of July 2006 rubble blocking the airport road as well as the evacuation of fighters from West Beirut and the Mountains, the Bush administration must order the reversal of Monday's Lebanese Cabinet decisions. It is widely believed that they ordered them and are responsible to reverse them and to accept a dialogue with the Opposition."

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