Thursday, August 31, 2006

Fixing water, electricity sectors will cost $200 million

Fixing water, electricity sectors will cost $200 million: Fneish
Minister mulls placement of mobile generators in south
By Osama Habib Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: The electricity and water sectors in Lebanon suffered close to $200 million in losses as a result of the Israeli offensive, Energy and Water Minister Mohammad Fneish said on Wednesday. "We have not completed the survey of the damage caused by the Israeli attacks but we estimate the total cost in the electricity and water sectors at around $200 million," Fneish told a news conference. The minister said that the ministry may either borrow more money to repair damage or seek financial assistance from the donor states. Lebanon hopes to obtain $500 million in aid from a donor conference that will be held in Stockholm at the end of this month. It is not clear if any of this money will then be used to repair electricity lines and water networks. The 34 days of relentless Israeli attacks targeted power plants, high-voltage cables and fuel-oil reservoirs in the South and North of the country. But surprisingly the Israelis spared the major electricity plants in the country. All of the fuel-oil reservoirs at Jiyyeh on the southern coast were set ablaze by Israeli warships in an attempt to apply pressure on both the government and residents of the South. The Jiyyeh attack caused Lebanon's worst oil spill, which spread along most of the coast, prompting the government to call for international assistance to help contain it. As a result of these attacks, Electricite du Liban was forced to increase electricity rationing to most areas of Lebanon. The Israelis also prevented tankers loaded with gasoline and fuel oil from unloading in Lebanon during the first weeks of the war. The UN and the US put pressure on Israel to ease the blockade and three tankers finally delivered more than 50,000 tons of fuel oil and gasoline. "Despite the severe power rationing we were able to provide electricity during the entire war," Fneish said. He added that Beirut was getting around 16 hours of electricity per day during the war while the rest of the country got less. The minister said it will take at least six months to rebuild the oil reservoirs in Jiyyeh, adding that the ministry is considering placing mobile generators along the coast to produce electricity until repairs are completed. He added that thanks to contracts signed with Kuwaiti and Algerian companies, the ministry was able to build up a fuel-oil reserve that can last between a month and 45 days, depending on the extent of rationing. Fneish said that EDL had sent repair teams to Southern villages and managed to connect the high-voltage cables. "There are at least 20 villages in the South that were destroyed during the war and for this reason the ministry may install temporary generators." Fneish said that Syria, Iran, Egypt and Kuwait have all pledged to help repair damage to the electricity sector. Responding to a question, the minister said that there is no reason for motorists to line up at gas stations to fill their cars. "We have sufficient gasoline to last us for a good time," Fneish said, warning that some gas stations were charging higher prices than the official rates. He added that the consumer protection department at the Economy Ministry has fined 200 gas stations for price gouging. Fneish also acknowledged that the war has delayed all plans to privatize and rehabilitate the electricity sector, which is a considerable drain on Treasury resources.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Only in Syria :P LOL

Dear God,

Crayons and glass litter Lebanese school
By Gideon Long (REUTERS)

Every window in Srifa's main school has been blown out by Israeli bombs. Lego bricks, colored crayons and shards of glass are scattered across the floor of the nursery. Toddler-sized wooden chairs and desks are covered in debris and dust. Upstairs, the buckled walls of the science laboratory are on the verge of collapse. Books, papers and children's drawings litter the floor of the library. "It makes me so sad to see the place like this," says headmaster Mohammad Nazzal as he picks through the rubble of a building in which he has worked for 36 years. "At least two Israeli bombs landed on the building next door. We didn't take a direct hit, but the damage is bad." Srifa Mixed Public School is one of up to 350 in southern Lebanon which, according to the education ministry, were destroyed or seriously damaged by Israeli bombing during the war with Hizbollah guerrillas. In damaging schools, the Israelis struck a blow at Lebanon's future as well as its present, the government says. The ministry puts the cost of the war to the education sector at $90 million in damaged infrastructure, equipment and supplies, and has postponed the start of the academic year by a month to give schools time to recover. Many will still not be ready in time, and thousands of children, like 14-year-old Hassan Ajami, will start the school year in makeshift classrooms. "When the war started we left for the Shouf Mountains," Ajami said as he stood outside Srifa's school gates. "When we came back I was so surprised. Why did they hit it? What is it that makes this building a target?"

Down the road at the town hall, Mayor Afif Najdi offers a bleak assessment for the school year now due to start on October 18. "Many kids will simply not go to school," he says. "They have no alternative."


Schools played a vital role during the 34-day war. According to the U.N. children's agency UNICEF, some 150,000 refugees took refuge in them in Beirut and other parts of Lebanon after fleeing their homes in the south. Since the end of the conflict, some southern schools have acted as community centers to help those returning to their rubble-strewn towns and villages. Headmaster Nazzal says he believes the Israeli jets aimed at Srifa school and missed, but Israel's army says preliminary checks show it did not target a single school directly. It has, however, repeatedly accused Hizbollah guerrillas of using civilian structures as cover and for storing weapons, and viewed them as legitimate targets during the conflict. Help for Lebanon's schools is on its way, much of it from Gulf states which have offered to pay for the renewal of the education sector in the south. UNICEF is putting together packs of equipment, including blackboards, chalk, exercise books, pens and pencils, and plans to distribute them to 1,500 Lebanese state schools. It also hopes to hand out school bags containing basic equipment to 350,000 children, but only when it knows if and when they will have classrooms to go to. "The delay to the start of the school year gives us some flexibility, but it will still require a major effort on the part of a whole range of powers to ensure these children have some form of education once the new year starts," UNICEF spokesman Simon Ingram said. "It's going to be a tight squeeze."

(Additional reporting by Corinne Heller in Jerusalem)

A joke for a mood change and a smile :D

One morning the husband returns after several hours of fishing and decides to take a nap. Although not familiar with the lake, the wife decides to take the boat out. She motors out a short distance, anchors, and reads her book. Along comes a Game Warden in his boat. He pulls up alongside the Woman and says,
"Good morning, Ma'am. What are you doing?"
"Reading a book," she replies, (thinking, "Isn't that obvious?")
"You're in a Restricted Fishing Area," he informs her.
"I'm sorry, officer, but I'm not fishing. I'm reading."
"Yes, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up."
"If you do that, I'll have to charge you with sexual assault," says the woman.
"But I haven't even touched you," says the game warden.
"That's true, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment."
"Have a nice day ma'am," and he left.

MORAL: Never argue with a woman who reads. It's likely she can also think.

Only in Lebanon ;)

Israel rejects U.N. blockade appeal

Israel rejects U.N. blockade appeal
By Dean Yates (REUTERS)

Israel rejected a call from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday to lift its six-week air-and-sea blockade of Lebanon, saying it would only raise the siege once all elements of a ceasefire were in place.

During an hour of talks with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Annan had pressed for a lifting of the blockade, imposed after the start of the war against Lebanon's Hizbollah guerrilla group on July 12, mainly on economic grounds.

Annan presses Israel to lift blockade

Annan presses Israel to lift blockade
By Dean Yates (REUTERS)

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan met Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday to discuss the deployment of U.N. troops to Lebanon and urge Israel to lift its six-week air and sea blockade of the country. Annan, in Jerusalem after visiting Lebanon, is trying to strengthen a two-week-old truce that ended a 34-day war between Israel and Lebanon's Hizbollah guerrilla group. On Tuesday, Annan said he hoped soon to double to 5,000 the number of U.N. troops in southern Lebanon and urged Israel and Hizbollah to end swiftly disputes blocking a lasting ceasefire. "We should all work together to ensure that this time the fragile peace that we are solidifying in Lebanon is for good and that we are not going to see another escalation," Annan said after talks with Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz. "My hopes are that with the French deployment moving forward and with the Italians beginning on Friday, that we should be able to double relatively quickly the 2,500 men we have on the ground and move up to 5,000 so that the Israelis can withdraw." Peretz said Israel would pull out thousands of troops that remain in southern Lebanon once a "reasonable" number of U.N. soldiers had deployed but did not give a figure. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which ushered in the truce, calls for deployment of 15,000 peacekeepers by November 4. Annan, who met Olmert at his official residence, will also hold talks with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni before traveling to the West Bank to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Aides to Annan have said he will also travel to Syria and Iran, Hizbollah's main backers, later in the week.

Israel has refused to lift the blockade on Lebanon, saying U.N. troops must first deploy along the Lebanese frontier with Syria to prevent Hizbollah rearming. Hizbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12 sparked the war. Annan said the Lebanese saw the blockade as a "humiliation and infringement of their sovereignty." But he also urged Beirut to exert control over its borders to stop arms smuggling. "I will also discuss ... with the (Israeli) prime minister the need to lift that blockade as soon as possible in order to allow Lebanon to go on with normal commercial activities and also rebuild its economy," he said. On a visit to devastated southern Lebanon on Tuesday, Annan said "serious irritants" to the truce were also the fate of the abducted soldiers and that of Lebanese prisoners held in Israel. U.S. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, on a visit to the region to try to mediate a prisoner exchange, told Israeli Army Radio he had been informed by a Hizbollah leader that the two soldiers seized by the guerrilla group were alive. He said that during a visit to Damascus on Monday, "a Hamas leader told me ... that the Israeli soldier captured by Hamas is alive." Palestinian militants abducted Corporal Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid from Gaza in June. Italy's first contingent of 800 troops, out of an eventual 3,000 pledged, set sail on Tuesday on what Rome said would be a "long and risky" mission. The aircraft carrier Garibaldi and four other naval ships were due to reach Lebanon by Friday. France promised to send a 900-strong battalion before the middle of September, with a second battalion to follow. The United Nations hopes to create a buffer zone in south Lebanon free of Israeli or Hizbollah forces and policed by the expanded U.N. force alongside some 15,000 Lebanese troops. It is hoping Muslim nations will send troops to balance the 7,000 or so pledged by European countries. The Turkish government said it wanted parliament to meet on September 5 to approve a troop contribution to the U.N. force, after agreeing in principle to send soldiers. Other potential Muslim contributors include Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh, although Israel has objected to their taking part because they have no diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. Annan is likely to press Olmert on allowing such countries to contribute and U.N. sources have said the Israeli prime minister might be flexible. The war cost the lives of nearly 1,200 people in Lebanon, mainly civilians, and 157 Israelis, mostly soldiers. The truce on Israel's northern border is generally holding, but violence has continued in the Palestinian territories.

Lucrative contract to supply dairy products to UN motive for destruction of Liban Lait

Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Bombing of Liban Lait leaves a sour smell
Israeli firm lost lucrative UNIFIl supply contract to bekaa dairy in 2001
By Lysandra Ohrstrom
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: A lucrative contract to supply dairy products to United Nations peacekeepers in South Lebanon may have motivated the destruction of Lebanon's largest dairy farm, Liban Lait said Tuesday. The Bekaa-based factory had been providing the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) with milk and yogurt since it out-bid an Israeli firm in 2001, but has been inoperational since six precision-guided bombs targeted the dairy's processing plant on July 19. "The Israelis knew the outcome of conflict and they knew that they would be asking for 15,000 troops to be stationed at the border," Liban Lait's marketing manager, Mark Waked, told The Daily Star. Waked estimated the contract to be worth between $2 million and $3 million with a beefed-up UNIFIL contingent in Lebanon. "It's a worthwhile contract supplying 15,000 troops, and knowing that I'm sure they hit the plant so northern Israel could provide the milk," he said, adding that the Israelis hit a dairy factory in the Gaza Strip as well.

UNIFIL's procurement department said they had not issued any invitations to bid for their dairy contract yet, and refused to specify a future date for the tender. They also declined to divulge which Israeli firm supplied UNIFIL with dairy products in the past. Nestle would not confirm rumors that its Israel branch held the contract in the past. The Middle East headquarters of Nestle did not return numerous calls from The Daily Star, and in response to an email inquiry, the company's European headquarters said that "we are not in the habit of discussing commercial relationships with any customers in the media."UNIFIL's media coordinator, Hassan Saklawi, said a cargo ship has delivered food to the Naqoura harbor every second day from a logistical base in Cyprus since the conflict began. He said UNIFIL no longer gets its milk on the local market, but could not specify the origin and brand of the new supplies. "You have to call the UN Tender Committee in New York to find out which brands come in, but we are not allowed to bring products from Israel," he said, "all I can tell you my friend is that nothing is written in Hebrew on our items OK."
Liban Lait's cows and some of its utilities were spared from Israeli fire, but the entire processing plant has been burned to the ground. The company was forced to suspend 180 of the plant's estimated 250 workers Monday in what Waked called an "extended vacation." Waked hopes that Liban Lait - whose products account for 70 percent of the annual dairy consumed in Lebanon - will be able to resume regular processing within two months. For the time being they are selling fresh milk to other local dairies to be processed, and imports of long-life dairy products are filling the gap. Though no complete estimate of damages to Lebanon's industrial sector have been issued, factories suffered at least $200 million in losses.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hizbullah's efficiency leaves Lebanese government behind

Monday, August 28, 2006
Hizbullah's efficiency leaves Lebanese government behind
By Salim Yassine Agence France Presse (AFP)

HARET HREIK: Two weeks after Israeli bombs stopped falling on southern Beirut, Hizbullah has nearly completed its survey of the battered suburbs, far ahead of government efforts to assess the damage inflicted by the month-long conflict. Teams from the group's reconstruction organization, Jihad al-Bina, have set up quarters in one of the few Hizbullah buildings in Haret Hreik spared by the Israeli bombardments. There they can be seen poring over maps divided into grids by red and green lines, indicating neighborhoods that have been either completely destroyed or only damaged. "We have divided the southern suburb into 86 zones, and each has been entrusted to a team consisting of an engineer and three assistants in charge of evaluating the damage," said Ghanem Slim, who is coordinating the assessment effort. Slim said the engineers have nearly completed their survey and have identified some 182 buildings with 4,000 apartments that were totally destroyed and another 192 buildings that were damaged.

Haret Hreik used to house Hizbullah's headquarters, and air raids targeted the suburb up to August 13, a day before a UN-sponsored cease-fire halted a widespread Israeli blitz against Lebanon. According to Lebanese police, three waves of combat jets hit the area 33 times that day, smashing 16 buildings. The neighborhood had already been pounded repeatedly during the first two weeks of fighting that erupted on July 12 after Hizbullah captured two Israeli soldiers during a cross-border raid.

"Next week we will start repairing the apartments that were damaged," Slim told AFP. "And we will do it in coordination with landlords and tenants." Following the cease-fire that went into effect on August 14, Hizbullah moved quickly to compensate hundreds of families affected by the war, offering each $12,000 in cash to pay rent for one year and buy furniture. An estimated 15,000 homes were destroyed by the Israeli raids across Southern Lebanon. In addition to compensating victims, Hizbullah also deployed dump-trucks and bulldozers to clear streets clogged by rubble, shattered glass and other debris.

In contrast, the government reacted only 10 days after the cease-fire went into effect, calling on people whose homes or businesses were destroyed or damaged to submit their requests for compensation. The government has said it plans to begin a multi-billion-dollar reconstruction of Lebanon's damaged housing and other infrastructure next week, but Hizbullah's rush to help victims might have already eclipsed anything that the state has to offer. However, the estimated $150 million already handed out by Hizbullah is widely believed to have come from Iran and has drawn criticism at home and abroad as an attempt to buy loyalty or exert political pressure. In a clear reference to Hizbullah, France Friday urged the international community - particularly Gulf states - not to allow hard-line groups to monopolize aid efforts. But the head of Jihad al-Bina, Kassem Alaeddin, dismissed these concerns, saying that Hizbullah's rush to offer aid was necessary in the face of government red tape which would delay relief for weeks. "We are willing to let the government take over whenever it wants," he told AFP. The Lebanese government's Council for Reconstruction and Development has estimated the material damage caused by the war at $3.6 billion.

Monday, August 28, 2006

US legislator vows to block aid to Beirut

Monday, August 28, 2006
US legislator vows to block aid to Beirut
Tom lantos: funds should depend on having un troops seal Syrian border
Compiled by Daily Star staff

A key US legislator said in Israel Sunday he would block aid that President George W. Bush has promised Lebanon and free funds only when Beirut agreed to the deployment of international troops along its the border with Syria. "The international community must use all our available means to stiffen Lebanon's spine and to convince the government of Lebanon to have the new UNIFIL troops on the Syrian border in adequate numbers," said Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the US House of Representatives' International Relations Committee. Lantos said he was putting a legislative hold on Bush's proposal to provide $230 million in aid for Lebanon in the aftermath of the 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah. As the top Democrat on the International Relations Committee, Lantos has the power to hold up legislation. "It is very much my hope that I will be able to lift the hold when the reasons will no longer be present," he said at Israel's Foreign Ministry, where he met Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni after talks with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "My purpose is not to withhold aid from Lebanon, my purpose ... is to persuade the government of Lebanon that the closing of the Lebanon-Syria border to arms smuggling from Iran and Syria is in the prime national interest of Lebanon and the Lebanese people." But Fouad Siniora's Cabinet has refused to deploy UNIFIL along the Lebanese-Syrian borders and says the subject is not up for discussion. "It is out of the question to deploy UNIFIL along our borders with Syria," an aid for Siniora told The Daily Star. "Lantos can say and do whatever he wants and Cabinet will only agree to deploy the troops if it sees there is a need to do so," he added. Hizbullah politburo member Ahmad Malli said his party welcomes Lantos' position and said his party does not accept donations from the US. "The US sponsored the Israeli aggression against Leb-anon. The children and the women were bombed and killed by American-made weapons. So we don't want any money from this criminal administration," Malli told The Daily Star.

Syria has threatened to close its border with Lebanon if UN troops deploy there. Israel says it will not lift a sea and air blockade of Lebanon unless a UN force helps ensure that no new weapons reach Hizbullah in the South.

In response to the dispute between Israel and Syria over the deployment, Lebanon undertook Thursday to prevent smuggling from occurring. The UN has approved an expanded force of up to 15,000 troops to beef up the 2,000-strong UNIFIL contingent that has been in South Lebanon since 1978. The Lebanese government has estimated the damage from the war will cost $3.6 billion to repair and Bush administration officials have expressed concern that Hizbullah was gaining an early advantage in rebuilding shattered South Lebanon.

Lantos, who is from California, said he would introduce bipartisan legislation to provide more aid to Israel, which already receives more than $2 billion annually in assistance from the United states.

"Lebanon will get help from Europe, the Arab world and the United States. Unless the United States provides some aid to Israel, Israel receives no aid," Lantos said. He did not provide any estimate of how much money he would seek for Israel. - Agencies

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Gene Simmons sends video to Israeli

Gene Simmons sends video to Israeli

Israeli-born "KISS" rocker Gene Simmons sent a get-well video to an Israeli soldier wounded in Lebanon, calling him a hero the world should be proud of. "I can't tell you how proud I am of you and how much the world and Israel owe you a debt of gratitude," Simmons told Ron Weinreich, a tank crewman paralyzed from the chest down, in a video broadcast on Saturday on Israel's Channel 2 television. Channel 2 said the KISS bassist made the video for Weinreich, a fan of the legendary rock group, at the request of Israel's Soldiers' Welfare Association, a fund-raising group. Weinreich, hospitalized near Tel Aviv, was wounded two weeks ago in fighting against Hizbollah guerrillas. "From the bottom of my heart, you're a real hero, you're everybody's hero, you're my hero," said Simmons, who recorded the video in the United States and added in Hebrew: "My name is Haim. I was born in Haifa." Simmons was born Haim Witz in the northern Israeli port city in 1949. He emigrated to the United States at the age of eight with his mother, a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp.

Friday, August 25, 2006

France says 15,000 UN troops for Lebanon too many

France says 15,000 UN troops for Lebanon too many
By Nadim Ladki (REUTERS)

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Friday he could raise 15,000 troops for a United Nations force mandated to police a truce between Israel and Hizbollah, but France called the target excessive. European and other nations have been dithering over how many troops to dispatch on the potentially hazardous mission, despite prompting from the United States, Israel and others. Asked before talks with European foreign ministers whether he expected to be able to raise all the troops he is seeking, Annan replied: "Not today, but I will get the 15,000." But French President Jacques Chirac, whose diplomats helped draft the August 11 Security Council resolution that authorized up to 15,000 peacekeepers to deploy in Lebanon, said he was unsure how many troops were needed but that 15,000 was too many. The number was "completely excessive," Chirac told a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris. "It doesn't really make sense. So what is the right number, 4,000, 5,000 or 6,000? I don't know," he said. Italy has offered up to 3,000 troops and France boosted its pledge to 2,000 on the eve of the Brussels meeting. Belgium pledged to take part in the force on Friday. Other possible troop contributors include Spain, Poland and Finland. About 150 French soldiers arrived by ship in Lebanon's southern port of Naqoura on Friday to join 50 extra troops already sent as part of France's initial offer of 200. European Union president Finland, which will chair the talks in Brussels, said the bloc's credibility was at stake and that it must show it can deploy rapidly to protect a fragile truce. U.N. officials want a strong European contingent alongside a sizeable Muslim component in the expanded UNIFIL force, which is to work with 15,000 Lebanese troops being deployed in the south.

The U.N.-backed truce took effect on August 14 after 34 days of fighting which cost the lives of nearly 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 157 Israelis, mainly soldiers.

Israel wants the beefed-up U.N. force to move to the border before it withdraws fully from Lebanon. It also has vowed to keep its partial sea and air blockade on Lebanon until the force deploys on the Syrian border to prevent Hizbollah from rearming. Chirac said the blockade was "extremely prejudicial to the economy and life in Lebanon, and in my view quite unjustified." Lebanon said on Thursday it would seek technical assistance from Germany to help control the border with Syria, but had no immediate plans to ask UNIFIL to deploy soldiers there.
Syria threatened a day earlier to close the border if U.N. troops were sent there.

"At the moment we are seeing some very unconstructive signals from Syria," Germany's Merkel said. She said Syria was not helping to resolve the conflict between Israel and Hizbollah, but should in the long term be included in any political process to settle it. EU countries had initially hesitated about sending troops into a danger zone between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas. But say new rules of engagement for UNIFIL have reassured most. Questions remain over the leadership of the force, with France saying UNIFIL's current French commander would stay in his post, and Italy proposing a dual command under which it could also take a leadership role from New York.
In a sharp public rebuke over his handling of the war in Lebanon, a poll published on Friday showed 63 percent of Israelis want Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign. The Yedioth Aronoth poll showed for the first time a majority favored Olmert quitting, along with a surge in support for the rightwing Likud party and its leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Olmert, a career politician who lacks the combat credentials of many of his predecessors, has seen his public standing plummet for failing to deliver a fatal blow to Hizbollah. Israel has also pursued an offensive against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, where hospital officials said eight people were wounded on Friday in air strikes on the home of a Palestinian militant and what the army said was a weapons depot. The Israeli army has been trying to force the release of an Israeli soldier seized by militants from Gaza on June 25. There has been no word on the fate of Corporal Gilad Shalit, but the Hamas-led Palestinian government said progress was being made toward the release of a Fox News correspondent and cameraman seized by gunmen in the Gaza Strip on August 14.

(Additional reporting by Jerusalem, Paris and Brussels bureaux)

Businessmen to Sue Israel Over Losses in Lebanon

Businessmen to Sue Israel Over Losses in Lebanon

18 August 2006 RIYADH -- Saudi businessmen, who have incurred a loss of over $14 billion in Lebanon as a result of Israeli bombardment, are considering legal action against Israel for war damages. Dr. Abdullah Al-Maglouth, one of the businessmen who lost his property during Israel's war with Hezbollah, told Arab News that a group of 20 Saudi investors, including himself, would be leaving for Beirut as soon as the situation there returns to normal. "One of the problems which we are facing is that our property in Lebanon had not been insured. So we are now asking all Saudi investors that they should in future seek insurance cover for their overseas investments, especially those relating to real estate."

Saudi investment in Lebanon was valued at $14 billion, of which the real estate component accounted for $10 billion involving hotels, apartments and beach resorts. The remaining amount was channeled in industrial ventures. Al-Maglouth, who is a member of the Saudi-Lebanese Joint Committee at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said they are exploring the possibility of suing Israel through the Lebanese government for the loss incurred by them.

The suit might be brought in the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

According to Nasser Al-Mutawa, a member of the Riyadh chamber, a group of Saudi businessmen who have investments in Lebanon was negotiating with an international law firm to claim damages from Israel. Fahd Al-Hammadi, another member of the joint Committee, said the committee would review their losses in Lebanon with the help of the Beirut government.

The rebuilding of Lebanon could take more than five years, he observed.

By Javid Hassan, Arab News

Syrian ports gain from Lebanon blockade

Friday, August 25, 2006
Syrian ports gain from Lebanon blockade
Compiled by Daily Star staff

DAMASCUS: Thousands of shipping containers filled with vital imports have been turned away from Beirut Port by the Israeli blockade, causing commercial cargo bound for Lebanon to flow through Syrian ports. Containers destined for Lebanon have started arriving over the last few weeks at the Syrian ports of Latakia and Tartous, where they are being loaded onto trucks and moved to Lebanon on roads bombed by Israel in the recent war, port officials told Reuters."We hope the Israeli blockade does not last but the number of containers for Lebanon is bound to rise if it does," said Bassam Fedda, head of traffic at Latakia, Syria's main port. "We have been under instructions from the prime minister to accelerate the clearing of cargo." Fedda said around 2,000, 6-meter-long containers originally destined for Beirut had arrived in Latakia in the past weeks. A lesser number went through Tartous, which is not as well equipped to handle containers. Latakia handled 42,573 containers in July and 30,927 containers so far this month. Most of the cargo bound for Lebanon was diverted at the beginning of the war to Egypt, Malta and Cyprus. It has largely stayed there, with Beirut Port still closed to commercial traffic, although a cease-fire took effect on August 14. Shipping agents said suppliers had realized it could be a long wait before Beirut Port opens, making Syria a logical alternative especially now Israeli bombing of roads between Lebanon and Syria had stopped.

Cargo transported via Syria has been so far mostly foodstuffs, they said. "Lebanon badly needs to import other goods and material for reconstruction, but it will be too expensive to move them through Syria," one shipper said. "Importers are likely to wait for political uncertainty to ease before they place their orders, and they will prefer to ship through Beirut," he said. Syria has acted as a conduit for humanitarian aid since the war started on July 12. Israel accuses it of also arming Hizbullah.

The Syrian government recently threatened to close its borders with Lebanon if UN forces were deployed on the frontier to stop Hizbullah from rearming itself. Israel says it will not lift its six-week-old sea and air blockade of Lebanon unless a UN force helps the Lebanese Army control the borders with Syria. The United Nations has been pressuring Israel to lift its blockade, saying it is vital to Lebanon's economic recovery. Elie Zakhour, president of the International Chamber of Navigation, said 18,000 containers that should have arrived in the Lebanese capital have been unloaded instead in Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Syria.

Over the past week, three ships loaded with vital gasoline supplies were also turned away, the president of the Society of Petroleum Importers, Bahige Abu Hamze, added.

Factories that survived Israeli bombing during the 34-day war are unable to operate at full capacity partly because of escalating fuel costs, said Ghazi Koreitem, president of the Beirut Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture. The factories "are operating at 20 percent of capacity because of a loss of manpower and petrol price increases," Koreitem said. Lebanon imports approximately 85 percent of its consumer goods. - Agencies

Greenpeace exposes oil slick on the seabed off the Lebanese coast

Beirut, Lebanon — At a press conference in Beirut today, Greenpeace and the Lebanese Union of Professional Divers, screened unseen footage of an underwater oil slick in the surrounding waters of the bombed Jieh Powe Plant. The footage showed an oil slick that stretches for at least 100 meters to the West and dozens of meters to the North and South of thickness that vary from 1 to 10 cm. The investigation reveals that a substantial part of the oil spilt during the recent war is now smothering the seabed. After six weeks, the oil is still suffocating the coast of Lebanon. From the shore at Jieh, the sea looks a beautiful azure blue, but beneath the surface on the seabed the oil continues to kill marine life and poison the water.

The scene is horrific, the seabed is completely covered with fuel oil which will threaten marine life for many years to come if it is not contained and removed immediately. This discovery in Jeih and other diving documentations in Beirut and Jbeil is an indication that much more poisonous oil could be suffocating the seabed all along the coastline; a full coastal assessment is required immediately. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 tonnes of Fuel Oil 150 poured into the Mediterranean Sea following the bombing of the Jieh power plant on July 13 and 15. This has contaminated at least 22 areas along 150 km of the Northern Lebanese coast; however the full extent of the spill has yet to be fully assessed as aerial surveillance is still not possible due to an air and sea blockade.

It is clear that a full assessment of the extent of the oil spill will need underwater investigation along the coast as well as aerial and ground surveillance; the blockade must be lifted for this work to proceed; furthermore increased efforts are needed to recover as much oil as possible from contaminated areas. Responding to the spill was delayed due to the war and oil recovery and mitigation only started 5 weeks after the spill occurred; even now only a limited response is possible due to difficulties in getting more equipment and expertise into the area. The delays are contributing to further contamination. The oil on the seabed could be brought back to the surface with currents and winds and could lead to further contamination of the coastline. The images are alarming and increase the need for urgent action from local authorities and support from the international community, a full damage assessment needs to be carried out to cover all the environmental impacts caused by the war and, as a priority, caused by the spill.

Greenpeace has been working to gather information for a post conflict environmental assessment in Lebanon and will provide the authorities with the details of this seabed contamination. The organisation has offered whatever help it can provide to the regional and national authorities and will be co-ordinating teams of volunteers over the coming period to help recover oil.

Source: Greenpeace

Lettre attributed to Ziad Rahbany and addressed to Saad Hariri

Not sure if this letter is really written by Ziad Rahbany but be it as it may... its hilarious :P
مش انو الناس بالناس ونحنا بسعد، بس يعني كيف بدنا نقنع الجرايد اللبنانية انو توقف تبخير لحمامة السلام سعد الحريري؟

يعني كيف بدنا نقنعو لسعد انو هوي كان في يرجع علبنان من زمان، وانو هوي شاب تمام بس مش زابطة معو بالسياسة لا بالطول ولا بالعرض، وخصوصي انو الانتصار يللي جرب يبعينا ياه مبارح، لما رجع بالهليكوبتر الفرنساوية طلع مش انتصار، وانو رجعتو بطيارة فرنساوية ما بتشتبه رجعة الخميني بشي؟

يعني مثلاً ليش ما رجع مع السنيورة من روما؟

لش ما رجع مع الامير تركي بن طلال، يللي هوي سعودي كمان واجا على بيروت 5 مرات مع مساعدات؟ ليش ما رجع مع الخطوط الجوية العربية على شي طيارة اماراتية او مصرية او أردنية؟ لش ما جاب معو شوية دوا أحمر لأهل صيدا؟

بسيطة منيح يللي رجعت حمامة السلام، بس كمان عنا سؤال: انو لش القذيفة الاسرائيلية على منارة بيروت القديمة رسالة لسعد الحريري ومش لفؤاد السنيورة؟ بيت السنيورة اقرب للمنارة مش هيك؟ قريطم وينك ووين، رغم انها مفتوحة للاخوة السعوديين متل ما قال الشيخ الحمامة بأول ايام العدوان ورجع تذكر بعدين انو كمان بلبنان في لبنانيي وقال كمان قريطم بخدمتهن ... بس يضلو بعيد!

انو كيف طلع مع خمس جرايد لبنانيي انو القذيفة رسالة لقريطم ومع ثلاثة عنوان "قصف قريطم"؟؟؟ يا خيي وين قصفوا قريطم؟؟؟

يعني السنيورة بيطلعلو رسالة بكل هالعدوان، استكتر عليه سعد القذيفة وبدو ياخدها لالو.

طيب معليش، قبلانين معك انك مقاومة من الاليزيه وانك عذبت حالك وجيت من الرياض عالاليزيه وقطعت المساج مرتين لتعمل اجتماعات، بس المصيبة يا شيخ مش اذا نحنا صدقنا لكن اذا الاسرائيلي صدق وقام بعتلك رسالة عنجد!! هونيك البلوي لكبيرة!

بعدين، يا شيخ، سؤال: ليش النازحين المهجرين المخروبة بيوتهن نايمين بالطرقات والجنينات (صنايع وغيرو) وملاعب الفوتبول من بيروت لطرابلس، وفي بهالوقت اكثر من الف شقة فاضية بالسوليدير؟ انو فكرك مطولة القصة هيك؟

يعني اذا طلع انو معقولة تشتي الدنيي بآب أو اذا طلع أيلول أولو مبلول، فكرك سوليدير بتضل عاصمة موناكو، ولّا المهجرين بيعملو موناكو اختها؟

يا شيخ، يا حمامة السلام وسلام الحمامة، افتح قبلك وبيتك وروّقها شوي، بلا نفخ وبعدك ما وصلت عالبلد، وبلا هيدا اللف والدوران كلما سألوك عن المقاومة. عفكرة بدك تحاسبون مش هيك؟ بدك تحاسب المقاومة؟ مش هيك قلت ب"عكاظ" وعلى ال"سي ان ان"؟

شو بدك بهالقصة، بلاها أحسن لأنو ديوان المحاسبة مفتوح ببير العبد والمربع بالحارة وبكل ضيعة ... شو بدك بالمحاسبة لانو يا ما إلها ستي عند سيدي، وأحسن ما تبتطل الطيارة، الهليكوبتر يللي جابتك قادرة ترجع تنزل وتاخدك.

الحمدلله عالسلامة يا شيخ، بدك تطول بالك على هلكم نازح ومهجر وتطول بالك اذا سمعت هيك يعني شوية حكي بغير لهجة بالحمرا وغيرها (هيدا جنوبي على بعلبكي على لهجة اهل برج البراجنة)، وحياتك ما بدهن يقعدوا ولا دقيقة بس صحابك قالوا انو خليهن يتحملوا مسؤولية مغامرتهن..

رح ناخد بنصيحتك وبدعوتك ونتضامن كلنا سوا، مع انو في ناس قادرة تتحمم وفي ناس انجأ قادرة تتيمم، معليش كلنا سوا وكتر خيرك على كل شي، بس عنا سؤال زغير بالنسبة للتضامن والوقفة كلنا سوا، انو يعني بس لنعرف قديش رح تضل واقف معنا: قديش فيك تقعد بلا مساج؟


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Lebanon wants US to help lift Israel blockade

Lebanon wants US to help lift Israel blockade
By Alistair Lyon, Special Correspondent (REUTERS)

Lebanon urged the United States on Wednesday to make Israel remove a sea and air blockade it imposed at the start of its 34-day war with Hizbollah fighters. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora also called on Washington to boost its financial aid to help Lebanon recover from war-related economic damage running into billions of dollars. "The United States can do more," he told a news conference. "The United States can support us in putting real pressure on Israel to lift the siege."

Israel has eased its blockade since a U.N. truce halted the conflict on August 14, but no flights can use Beirut airport and no ships can dock in Lebanese ports without its permission. In Brussels, European Union envoys prepared to discuss the EU contribution to a U.N. force to help the Lebanese army take over the south from Hizbollah fighters who previously controlled it and from Israeli troops still occupying border pockets. The United Nations is trying to expand an existing UNIFIL peacekeeping force to 15,000 troops to monitor the truce, as mandated by a Security Council resolution adopted on August 11. Siniora said Lebanon hoped France, which had been expected to provide 2,000 troops or more, would send more than the 200 extra troops it has contributed. "We welcome a bigger French role ... and we would have liked France to contribute more soldiers," Siniora said. French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy indicated that more troops could follow once the terms of the mission are set, but doubts remain over the size of the EU contingent. Italy, which has said it could send up to 3,000 troops out of a European contribution of anything up to 9,000, was expected to press fellow EU states to make firm commitments.

EU foreign ministers meet on Friday to hear from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan how the force will operate. The United Nations has circulated new rules of engagement for U.N. troops in Lebanon, which permit soldiers to shoot in self-defense, use force to protect civilians and resist armed attempts to interfere with their duties, a U.N. document says.


Douste-Blazy said one of UNIFIL's main tasks would be to enforce an arms embargo to prevent Hizbollah from rearming. He shrugged off a warning by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday that deploying foreign troops on the Syrian-Lebanese border would be a hostile act. part from helping the Lebanese army deploy in the south, UNIFIL's job would be "to safeguard the arms embargo at all the borders," Douste-Blazy told France 2 television. Israel wants U.N. troops to police Lebanese-Syrian border crossings to prevent weapons reaching Hizbollah, citing this as a reason for not fully lifting its air and sea curbs on Lebanon. More Lebanese troops moved into posts on the Syrian border posts in the southeastern Bekaa Valley, security sources said. Israel has refused to withdraw fully from the south until more UNIFIL troops arrive to back up the 15,000 Lebanese troops who have begun moving into Hizbollah strongholds.
Nearly 1,200 people in Lebanon and 157 Israelis were killed during the war that erupted after Hizbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12. Amnesty International accused Israel of deliberately targeting civilians and said it might have committed war crimes. "The evidence strongly suggests that the extensive destruction of public works, power systems, civilian homes and industry was deliberate and an integral part of the military strategy rather than collateral damage," the rights group said. Israel denies targeting civilians and accuses Hizbollah of launching rockets from civilian areas. U.N. agencies will probably reduce their $150 million appeal for emergency aid to Lebanon now that almost all the 900,000 war-displaced people have returned home, officials said. However, many have found their homes flattened by Israeli bombardment. Thousands of unexploded Israeli cluster bombs and other munitions litter the region. Cluster bombs have already killed eight people and wounded at least 25 since the truce.
An Israeli soldier was killed and three were wounded by landmines just inside Lebanon.
An Israeli army spokesman said the incident occurred on Tuesday night. Preliminary checks showed Israel had laid the mines, although it was unclear when, the spokesman said.

Again... no comments :P

2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict in Wikipedia

Very interesting link... with pictures, references, links, etc... Not sure it's completely unbiased though.

Interestingly enough, when listing the "individual" participants of the arab-israeli conflict at the bottom of the page, out of 60 politicians of many nations only 1 is Lebanese, namely Fouad Siniora (!)


1 Beginning of conflict
2 Israeli action
3 Hezbollah action
4 Initial reviews of the conflict after the ceasefire
5 Targets in civilian areas
6 Environmental consequences
7 Position of Lebanon
8 Previous ceasefire attempts
8.1 Several ceasefire proposals made
9 Current ceasefire
9.1 Violations of current ceasefire
10 International reaction
11 Historical background
11.1 Israel-Lebanon conflict
11.2 Previous prisoner exchanges
12 References
13 External links
13.1 Media

War wiped out 15 years of Lebanese recovery - UNDP

Wednesday, August 23, 2006
War wiped out 15 years of Lebanese recovery - UNDP

By Agence France Presse (AFP)

GENEVA: Lebanon's 15-year economic and social recovery from the Civil War was wiped out in the recent Israeli offensive against Hizbullah, the UN development agency said Tuesday. "The damage is such that the last 15 years of work on reconstruction and rehabilitation, following the previous problems that Lebanon experienced, are now annihilated," said Jean Fabre, a spokesman for the UN Development Program (UNDP).

Lebanon's relatively healthy progress toward the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, which cover a range of social and economic targets, "have been brought back to zero," he told journalists. "Fifteen years of work have been wiped out in a month." Fabre estimated that overall economic losses for Lebanon from the month-long conflict between Israel and Hizbullah totaled "at least $15 billion, if not more." Lebanese authorities estimated last week that direct structural damage inflicted by the offensive reached $3.6 billion, including 15,000 housing units, 80 bridges and 94 roads destroyed or damaged. About 35,000 homes and businesses were destroyed in the conflict, while a quarter of the country's road bridges or overpasses were shattered, according to the UNDP's initial estimate UN agencies said it would take weeks to assess the full extent of the damage in South Lebanon and Southern Beirut.

The need for clean water and sanitation, to make safe unexploded munitions and build shelters are the most urgent issues, aid agencies said Tuesday. - AFP

Cabinet to challenge blockade

Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Cabinet divided over audacious plan to challenge blockade

'We cannot accept the siege and blackmail'

By Nada Bakri
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: One of two Hizbullah members in theCabinet said Tuesday the government may attempt to break the Israeli naval and air blockade by calling on ships and aircraft to travel to Lebanese ports without prior Israeli approval. The government has condemned the blockade, saying it violates the UN cease-fire resolution, and the foreign minister Tuesday called on the international community to force Israel to end the blockade.

The Cabinet met late Monday but did not publicly challenge the blockade, although it called the siege one of Israel's "terrorist practices." "Entry to Lebanon by sea and from air is a matter of sovereignty," Labor Minister Tarrad Hamadeh said during an interview with Hizbullah's Al-Manar television station. Hamadeh said the Lebanese "must be free to enter their country at will. "We cannot accept the siege and blackmail."

Israel imposed a sea, land and air blockade of Lebanon early on in its July 12-August 14 offensive against the country. Israeli warplanes have attacked seaports and intercepted ships, allowing the arrival of only those that apply for and are granted the privilege. Jets have struck major highways and Lebanon's land routes to Syria. The Beirut airport runways were hit. Since the cease-fire took hold, land routes in and out of the country to Syria have reopened after temporary repairs. Commercial flights to Beirut's international airport have been allowed only to and from Amman, Jordan - an Arab state with a peace treaty with Israel.

The Israelis have argued that the blockade has been kept in place as a weapon against Hizbullah rearmament. Lebanon's government has promised to take measures to improve security screening at the Beirut airport and has deployed troops on the border with Syria. Hamadeh said that when Lebanon completes those measures, Cabinet is leaning toward "taking a decision on its own to open its areas and rid itself of the siege." But Interior Minister Ahmad Fatfat said Cabinet will not take such a decision. He added that ministers are divided between those who wish to challenge the Israeli blockade and those who favor diplomatic means. "Cabinet did not approve this decision although there were several ministers in favor of it," Fatfat told The Daily Star, without naming the ministers. "This solution won't work," he said. "I don't think any Arab airline would agree to fly to Beirut on these conditions and without Israel's approval because it is a great risk." Fatfat said the blockade can still be broken through the extensive diplomatic efforts led by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's Cabinet. "We want to find diplomatic solutions first," the interior minister said. "We can't take a hasty decision like that." Hamadeh said it was Lebanon's right to end the blockade. "If Israel wants to attack, let them attack Arab ships and planes and let them shoulder the responsibility before the international community," he said. - With Naharnet

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

comments anyone? :P

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

The new Middle East map.... after!


ابتهال في زمن الحرب

يارب امسح كل دمعة عن عيوننا وكفّ عنا ضربات الأشرار حتى نحيا مع أطفالنا في رحمتك عسى نصبح أحراراً من جديد. أعطنا أن نتوب إليك لئلا ينزل علينا غضبك. احفظ بلدنا في الحرية والصدق والاستقامة. علمنا أن نكون جدّيين في ما نقول ونعمل.

أقم السلام عندنا ليعود النازحون إلى منازلهم وإلى حيث يحبون أن يعيشوا وامنع عنا الفتنة لنصير بلداً واحداً يحبك ويعلـّيك فلا ننقسم طوائف تتناحر. أليس حقاً لنا أن نحيا في سلام نخدم الإنسانية كلـّها أحراراً من كل حقد. ارفع عنا خطر الجوع واضطراب الفكر والخوف لنطمئن إلى رضاك. لا تسمح للأشرار أن يستفحلوا في خطاياهم لإبادتنا. ألهمنا العودة إليك في كل يوم وأن نطلب رأفتك من أجل هدوءٍ كامل في أرضنا. بوركت يا رب وبوركت أعمالك من جيل إلى جيل، أمين.

Interesting facts...

1. Lebanon has 18 religious communities
2. It has 40 daily newspapers
3. It has 42 universities
4. It has over 100 banks (that is banks and not branches of a bank)
5. 70% of the students are in private schools
6. 40% of the Lebanese people are Christians (this is the highest percent in all the Arab countries)
7. There's 1 doctor per 10 people in Lebanon (In Europe & America, there's 1 doctor per 100 people)
8. The name LEBANON appears 75 times in the Old Testament
9. The name CEDAR (Lebanon's tree) appears 75 times too in the Old Testament!!
10. Beirut was destroyed and rebuilt 7 times (this is why it's compared to The Phoenix).
11. There are 3.5 Million Lebanese in Lebanon
12. There are around 10 Million Lebanese outside Lebanon!

1. Lebanon, the country, was occupied by over 16 countries: (Egyptians-Hittites-Assyrians- Babylonians- Persians- Alexander the greats Army- the Roman Empire Byzantine- the Arabian Peninsula-The Crusaders- the Ottoman Empire- Britain-France- Israel- Syria)
2. Byblos (city in Lebanon) is the oldest, continuously living city in the world.
3. Lebanon's name has been around for 4,000 yrs non- stop (it's the oldest country/ nation's name in the world!)
4. Lebanon is the only Asian/African country that doesn't have a desert.
5. There are 15 rivers in Lebanon (all of them coming from its own mountains)
6. Lebanon is one of the most populated countries in its archeological sites, in the world!!!
7. The first alphabet was created in Byblos (city in Lebanon)
8. The only remaining temple of Jupiter (the main Roman god) is in Baalbeck, Lebanon (The City of the Sun)
9. The BIBLE comes from the name of BYBLOS!!!
10. Lebanon is the country that has the most books written about it.
11. Lebanon is the only non-dictatorial country in the Arab world (it has a President!)
12. Jesus Christ made his 1st miracle in Lebanon, in CANA (The miracle of Turning water into wine).
13. The Phoenicians (Original People of Lebanon) built the 1st boat, and they were the first to sail ever!
14. Phoenicians also reached America long before Christopher Columbus did.
15. The 1st law school in the world was built in Lebanon, in Downtown Beirut.
16. People say that the cedars were planted by God's own hands (This is why they're called "The Cedars of God", and this is why Lebanon is called "God's Country on Earth."

Is not a real shame to destroy a country with a such history?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Hizbollah hands out cash to Lebanese

Hizbollah hands out cash to Lebanese
By Alistair Lyon,
Special Correspondent 28 minutes ago

Hizbollah handed out bundles of cash on Friday to people whose homes were wrecked by Israeli bombing, consolidating the Iranian-backed group's support among Lebanon's Shi'ites and embarrassing the Beirut government. "This is a very, very reasonable amount. It is not small," said Ayman Jaber, 27, holding a wad he had just picked up from Hizbollah of $12,000 in banknotes wrapped in tissue.

Israeli and U.S. officials have voiced concern that Hizbollah will entrench its popularity by moving fast -- with Iranian money -- to help people whose homes were destroyed or damaged in the 34-day conflict with Israel.
Hizbollah has not said where the funds are coming from to compensate people from an estimated 15,000 destroyed homes. The scheme appears likely to cost at least $150 million. The Lebanese government has yet to launch anything similar. Trying to bolster a five-day-old truce, Lebanese troops moved deeper into south Lebanon a day after France dealt a blow to hopes of building a strong U.N. force to help the army take control of the region as Israeli troops withdraw. The United Nations said it had received substantial offers of troops for Lebanon, but was disappointed that France was only offering to send 200 additional soldiers. "We had hoped -- we make no secret of it -- that there would be a stronger French contribution," said U.N. deputy secretary-general Mark Malloch Brown.
International and Lebanese government aid efforts risk being overshadowed by Hizbollah's swift action on reconstruction. Hizbollah said it had so far given the one-time cash payment to 120 families whose homes in the southern suburbs of Beirut were destroyed in Israeli air strikes. The money is to help families rent and furnish alternative accommodation. "We have full information on all the buildings that have been destroyed or damaged," said a Hizbollah official at one of 12 assistance centers the group has set up in the suburbs. "Later on, we will either pay for new flats or rebuild the buildings that were destroyed." Hizbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah promised the compensation in his first speech after the truce took hold.

France's reticence to contribute more troops follows disastrous peacekeeping missions in the past. It lost 58 paratroopers to a Shi'ite suicide bomb attack in Beirut in 1983 and some 84 soldiers in Bosnia in the early 1990s. "I'd like to remind you of the experience of painful operations where U.N. forces did not have a sufficiently precise mission or the means to react," French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told RTL radio. The Italian government formally approved the deployment of troops to Lebanon. It did not say how many would be sent, but officials have said Italy was ready to offer up to 3,000 troops.
Prime Minister Romano Prodi said Italy wanted to contribute, but that the mission must have clear rules of engagement. The Lebanese army began deploying south of the Litani River, about 20 km (13 miles) from the border with Israel, on Thursday. A senior security source said about 4,500 Lebanese troops were already south of the Litani and more units were joining them on Friday as the force builds up to an eventual 15,000.
Some troops reached the village of Shebaa, near the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms enclave, a key source of tension between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas before the recent war. Hizbollah fighters have melted away as the Lebanese army arrives, but they have not left the south or given up the rocket launchers they used to bombard Israel during the conflict. Malloch Brown said Hizbollah's disarmament required an agreement between the group and the Lebanese government.
At least 1,181 people in Lebanon and 157 Israelis were killed in the conflict that erupted after Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12. In the occupied West Bank, Israeli soldiers killed two Palestinian militants near Bethlehem after a nearly two-hour standoff, Palestinian security sources and witnesses said.

(Additional reporting by Beirut, Jerusalem, Paris, Rome and U.N. bureaux)

Unexploded munitions pose deadly threat to returning displaced

Copyright (c) 2006 The Daily Star

Friday, August 18, 2006
Unexploded munitions pose deadly threat to returning displaced
By Iman Azzi Special to The Daily Star

BEIRUT: Lebanese civilians have been warned to be on the lookout for unexploded ordnance (UXO) across the country as a major campaign to clear the deadly refuse of war got under way this week. At least four people have been killed by UXOs since Monday, underscoring the danger posed by large aerial bombs, artillery shells, missiles and cluster submunitions for both displaced civilians returning to Southern Lebanon and the relief workers trying to distribute humanitarian aid.

"This war has left thousands of unexploded ordnance and cluster bombs," read Arabic-language leaflets that are being handed out by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Lebanon and along the border with Syria for refugees now returning from that country. "For your safety and the safety of your children you have to know that in all the places that have been bombarded there may be strange objects or cluster bombs of different shapes, colors and sizes."

Of the thousands of Israeli rounds fired into Lebanon, the United Nations has estimated that an average of 10 percent of such ordnance are likely to have failed to function as designed and remain in the ground or in the rubble of destroyed buildings as significant explosive hazards.

UNICEF warns that there could be 8,000 to 9,000 UXOs in South Lebanon.

"We are expecting to find thousands if not hundreds of thousands of UXOs. This is a massive humanitarian concern," Human Rights Watch (HRW) spokesman Marc Garlasco told The Daily Star from the battered Southern town of Khiam. "UXOs will affect the ability to farm in the South. Fields will be unavailable for months."

Garlasco said his team had already located hundreds of unexploded 155-millimeter artillery shells, although HRW is not officially recording numbers. The detonation of such a shell can produce a crater up to 3 meters deep and 4 meters in diameter.

Just one "will destroy you and everyone around you and send shrapnel over 200 meters," Garlasco warned.
While HRW is not equipped to destroy the UXOs they record the GPS coordinates and send the information to an appropriate organization such as the National De-Mining Agency or the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS).

Another hazardous UXOs is the M42, an American-made cluster munition about the size and shape of a D battery - and with a 14 percent "dud" rate.

According to Garlasco, the M42 was the number one killer of Iraqi civilians during the US-led invasion in 2003. It is smaller and harder to see than the 155mm shell, and "these won't kill, they'll just maim you," said Garlasco.

He also warned that Hizbullah had set up several booby traps across South Lebanon intended to trap and destroy Israeli tanks. However, these booby traps can also prove fatal for unsuspecting civilians.
UNMAS has found at least 200 cluster bombs in in the Southern town of Tibnin, including some on hospital grounds.

"We stopped counting them at 200," UNMAS said.

Alan Kelly, liaison officer for UNMAS New York, said the agency was in the process of bringing in personnel equipped to destroy UXOs: five explosive ordnance teams, five battle clearance teams and three survey teams.

"We are currently in a period of rapid response," Kelly told The Daily Star. "We are alleviating the problem of UXOs on the main roads to decrease the number of internally displaced people getting injured on their way home."

Hizbullah has been monitoring the clearing of Beirut's southern suburbs (the Dahiyeh) closely, watching for UXOs. As of Wednesday, Hizbullah officials had found four unexploded 1,000-kilogram aerial bombs in the suburbs and called the Lebanese Army to help destroy them.

Experts warn that there could be thousands of UXOs still in Dahiyeh.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Lebanon faces huge obstacles to recovery and reconstruction

Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Lebanon faces huge obstacles to recovery and reconstruction
By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Stuart Williams

BEIRUT: Lebanon has a dauntingly steep path to climb toward reconstruction and a chance, though no guarantee, of recovering from the economic devastation caused by Israel's offensive, economists said Tuesday. Traditional oil-rich allies in the Gulf have raised hopes by pledging $800 million to rebuild infrastructure, but problems such as high unemployment and a shattered private sector could mar any recovery. "I think that it all depends on how the conflict will end. I don't believe that it has ended. If we can come out with the start of a real process it will only be a blip," said Khaled Zaidan, head of securities at BankMed. "But it would be very difficult to retain financial and human capital as well as attract necessary additional human capital if there is no clear signal or enough confidence that this war will not be replicated."

The economic destruction wrought by the Israeli offensive is indisputable. Almost a million people were displaced, industry came to a grinding halt and the nascent tourist industry, which had been heading for a boom year, was left in tatters. Economist Kamal Hamdan estimated that almost $3 billion worth of direct losses were caused by the Israeli offensive, with one third in infrastructure and most of the rest in housing and commercial buildings. Indirect losses, based mostly on heavy losses in the tourist sector and idled industry may exceed another $2 billion dollars, he warned. "There will be no positive growth for the second year in a row. This is very bad for a country like Lebanon with serious macroeconomic and financial imbalances," he said.

Lebanon's public debt has spiraled to $38.8 billion, or 170 percent of GDP, since the end of its 15-year-long Civil War in 1990. With the premises of many businesses, especially in south Beirut, completely destroyed, "unemployment could reach in the very short term 20 percent," a problem accentuated by 10-15 percent of the displaced not being able to return home in the near future, Hamdan said. But for all the gloom, rays of light have emerged. The banking system remains liquid, with the Central Bank still holding solid foreign currency reserves, bolstered by Kuwaiti and Saudi injections, after it used an estimated $1 billion to support the pound during the offensive.

Moreover, with the cessation of hostilities, government bonds have recovered and a bullish mood has returned to the local stock market. The share price of heavyweight Solidere, a giant property company, is climbing. While the service sector - especially the tourist industry - has been dealt a heavy blow by the offensive, some help could come from growth in construction as aid comes in to rebuild the thousands of destroyed homes.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, a traditional economic ally of Lebanon, gave $500 million in aid to help rebuild, while Kuwait granted $300 million. The government said Beirut's airport, put out of action by Israeli air strikes, could re-open in a week if security guarantees are given. However, two-and-a-half months will be needed for it to become fully operational. The flow of aid funds, particularly from friendly nations such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, bodes well for the future," BLOM Bank analyst Nicolas Photiades said in a research note. Zaidan of BankMed says that for all the destruction Lebanon is still in better shape than it was just after the 1975-1990 Civil War, but that rebuilding will take a major and sustained international effort. "You can't put a band-aid on the problem. Lebanon needs a Marshall Plan-type program. You need to have something of that magnitude," he said, referring to the US plan to put Europe back on its feet after World War II. Hamdan said a social priority must be to give construction jobs to those who lost homes and became unemployed - especially in the bombed-out Shiite suburbs of south Beirut - in order to build a better Lebanon. "Despite all the dangers, if we get a political consensus there is hope we will be able to build a better way of life in the more underdeveloped areas," in the south and the capital's suburbs, he said.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Ahmadinejad launches blog
By Agence France Presse (AFP)

TEHRAN: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has started blogging, with the launch of his own Internet diary. "The Personal Notes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad" can now be read on the Internet at, in which he praises the Islamic Republic established in 1979 as the outcome of the "sacrifice of thousands of martyrs, to the unbelievable astonishment of political analysts in both East and West."

But despite taking to technology to lay down his thoughts, the picture of Ahmadinejad shows him using a pen and paper rather than a computer keyboard. His blog is presented with a conservative plain background, and is adorned only with the Iranian flag on the left and his picture, dressed in a dark suit, on the right.

Besides Persian, the blog also has English and Arabic versions - with a French one still "under construction." The first episode relates Ahmadinejad's birth "to a poor family in a village east of the country" and ends with the death in 1989 of the Islamic Revolution's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In his childhood, the son of a blacksmith writes that he witnessed the pre-revolution "crapulence of the shah's debauched clan and their foreign companies." One of the few personal details he reveals is his memory of the national examination for university entrance, when despite a nosebleed he gained a good mark and was admitted to the civil engineering faculty of Tehran University. He remains discreet about his early politics, saying only that "three years before the revolution I was involved in certain activities against the illegitimate monarchy regime of Iran, the mercenary and puppet of the US and Britain."

Ahmadinejad's blog devotes much space to praising Khomeini, about whom he writes: "The more I became familiar with his thoughts and philosophy, the more affection I had for that divine leader." The president also takes the opportunity to attack the United States as "the leader of arrogant powers" for supporting then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in his 1980-1988 war against Iran. Realizing that his first foray onto the web may be viewed as somewhat lengthy, Ahmadinejad promises to be more concise in his subsequent musings. - AFP

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

So, Three Guerrillas Walk Into a Bar . . .

So, Three Guerrillas Walk Into a Bar . . .

By Nora Boustany
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, August 15, 2006

BEIRUT -- With a bit of fortitude and loads of wit, there are laughs to be had, even in wartime.

Barely a week into a war that sent the hopes of many Lebanese tumbling down with their bridges, buildings and roads, stunned civilians trapped in the crossfire started trading self-deprecating gags about their situation.

As sad as the tales of death and the exodus of 1 million people displaced from their homes into empty schools and government buildings have been, the Lebanese have found ways to make light of their own plight.

As one joke has it, residents fleeing the Shiite suburbs of Beirut were flashing the victory sign -- to indicate that only two buildings were still left standing.

It was followed by excited speculation that real estate values in the poor neighborhood of Ain al-Rummaneh, a crowded cluster of aging buildings overlooking the southern suburbs, had shot up by 50 percent. Why? It now has a sea view.

People are petrified of honoring their dental appointments out of fear they may have bridgework done, goes another favorite. So contagious have these stories been that in one refugee center, Marwa Saad, 15, whose family was driven out by fierce fighting near the southern market town of Nabatiyeh, did not dare utter a word without covering her mouthful of braces.

"Everyone keeps teasing me; they bully me to keep my mouth shut so we don't get hit by Israeli jets," she said about her friends, giggling with her hand to her mouth.

Another story has Haifa Wehbe, the curvaceous bombshell of Lebanese music videos, dispatched by the Hezbollah leadership to Israel to conduct negotiations. She returns pregnant. When confronted about her condition, the anecdote goes, Wehbe insisted she was only trying to help: "I thought I would get you another small hostage."

Some jokes target the Syrians for causing the crisis by allowing arms to flow to Hezbollah and pressuring the Lebanese government to let the group keep its arms. One joke says the Israelis cannot aim at the Syrian inhabitants of Homs. Why? Because the Israelis only have smart bombs.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is also the butt of some humor. The elderly women of the Christian neighborhood of Ashrafiyeh regard Nasrallah as their new idol and sex symbol, goes one line, because he has taken them back 40 years.

Another joke extols Nasrallah, saying he is now worthy of a statue since he managed to put the entire Shiite Muslim community, with its high rate of illiteracy, in schools.

The most popular joke about this round of war in Lebanon is crafted around a fictitious Archie Bunker-like figure who is a fumbling caricature of all the failings of the Lebanese. During 30 years of war, jokes about the character, Abul Abed, have carried many a social event into the early morning hours with thigh-slapping, fall-off-the-chair laughter.

The latest installment recounts how Abul Abed calls Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and boasts that he has four neighborhood thugs who will really make life difficult for Israeli soldiers if they dare venture north of the border. Olmert laughs and says that just one Israeli brigade could overrun his whole neighborhood in hours. "I'll get back to you," barks Abul Abed.

When he calls Tel Aviv again, Abul Abed threatens to collect every bar bouncer, alley hoodlum and thug from Tyre to Tripoli to fend off the Israeli assault. Olmert simply tells him that he will send the air force, naval fleet and ground forces to invade. "I'll call you after I have conferred with my generals," Abul Abed says confidently.

He calls back boasting to Olmert that he has now collected thousands of followers of the Abul Abed Movement who are ready with shoulder-mounted rockets like the Mujahedeen of Afghanistan. Olmert whistles facetiously: "You will be no match for the 2 million Israeli soldiers massed along the border, ready to attack."

"Two million?" asks Abul Abed. "In that case I am going to have to surrender. We simply do not have enough room to keep 2 million hostages."

Sunday, August 13, 2006


Please read the proposed UNSC resolution no. 1701 approved by both the Lebanese and Israeli governments courtesy of

Estimated date for the agreed cease-fire will be tomorrow Monday morning at 8AM. (??) Until than both parties are doing their best to do as much damage to other party as possible... not too long ago we heard a very big explosion caused by 20 air strikes executed on the Beirut Suburbs in only one minute's time.

My questions are... how will this impact our internal politics? how long will we, as a government, stay united before the usual disagreements and bickerings start? how long will we, as a people from different religions and cultures, survive in peace together without clashing now that the unspoken internal bounderies have been eradicated due to the mass displacements? This new population mix is very explosive and will be lethal unless very strong leaderships take control. But do we have such leaderships? Nasrallah is a respected and very strong orator and leader in his community. I fear however that he has no Christian counterpart strong enough and respected enough amongst the majority of the Christian community to be able to fully mitigate and eradicate the problem. Despite the UN resolution and the agreed cessation of the hostilities, the situation is even more dangerous and the results might be even more serious and potentially more fatal than before.

But at least it will be a small reprieve for the humanitarian aids to be able to reach their designed destinations, for the blockade to be terminated and the fuel being able to reach hospitals, ambulances, fire brigades and the rest of the population.

A chance at a pseudo sense of normalancy.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Lebanon hospitals cut off, running out of supplies

Lebanon hospitals cut off, running out of supplies
By Michael Winfrey (REUTERS)
Thu Aug 10, 6:49 AM ET

Hospitals were running out of food, fuel and other supplies in southern Lebanon on Thursday and aid groups said fighting and a ban on movement meant they could not reach thousands trapped in the area.

Medecins Sans Frontieres said that since an Israeli air strike destroyed the last coastal river crossing for trucks to the south on Monday, aid agencies had been reduced to carrying supplies by hand over a log across the Litani river.

It said Israel's warning that it might attack any vehicle south of the Litani that was not part of an aid convoy with Israeli clearance significantly undermined the chances of the tens of thousands of people still believed to be trapped in the region.

"The people in the south are afraid. They are terrified to move," Rowan Gillies, president of MSF International, said in Beirut. "To forbid all forms of movement, without distinction, will lead to even more civilian deaths and suffering."
MSF said it had suffered close calls with shelling and air strikes close to two of its convoys earlier this week. On Monday, warplanes attacked two cars traveling near a U.N. Nations convoy, killing three people.

Israel has drawn international criticism for attacking targets in populated civilian areas. At least 1,011 people have been killed in Lebanon during the four-week-old conflict with Hizbollah guerrillas.

Israel, which has lost 116 dead, mostly soldiers, says air attacks and ground operations are the only way to stop the Shi'ite group, which sparked the conflict when it captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12.
The United Nations World Food Program said it sent a 15-truck convoy to the eastern town of Baalbek but was still waiting for two planes carrying about 10 tonnes of supplies each which had been delayed since Tuesday.

The agency was also trying to send a 10-truck convoy to the battered town of Nabatiyeh in the south, but had not received security guarantees.
"We had hoped to get down to Nabatiyeh today, but were denied clearance," WFP spokesman Robin Lodge said.

MSF said hospitals were quickly running out of food, medical and other supplies in Tyre and other southern cities. The worst shortage was diesel fuel to run generators.
The shortages coincide with heavy fighting that has brought new wave of casualties to southern hospitals. More than 3,000 people have been wounded in Lebanon so far and the United Nations says up to 900,000 people have been displaced. "We're trying to reduce the number of people who have been wounded turning to people who have died," said Gillies. "It's very basic. If we can't give the local authorities the ability to do that, the consequences for civilians are dire."

The European Union aid chief Louis Michel also said it was vital to restore access to aid in south Lebanon. He said conditions were also worsening in northern Israel after Hizbollah rocket attacks there. He said he would visit Lebanon and Israel next week for talks with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Amir Peretz.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Agencies struggle to get aid into south Lebanon

Agencies struggle to get aid into south Lebanon
By Michael Winfrey (REUTERS)

Humanitarian efforts in southern Lebanon stalled for a second successive day on Wednesday as aid workers tried to reach the area, avoiding artillery and air strikes after Israel banned movement there.

On Sunday, Israeli warplanes destroyed a makeshift bridge over the Litani river, the last main route for aid agencies to reach the port of Tyre and the rest of the south. Israel also imposed an indefinite ban on movement south of the river, saying its forces might attack moving vehicles that were not approved convoys, on the grounds that they might be taking supplies to Hizbollah guerrillas.

The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) has asked Israel since Monday for safe passage to rebuild the crossing and look for a new route to the south but has had no luck in either case. "We haven't yet found a way through. We were unable to send our reconnaissance vehicles down there today because of the security situation," said WFP spokesman Robin Lodge. "We hope to do it tomorrow if we get security assurances." Lodge said the WFP sought clearance for two planeloads of supplies from Jordan and to bring in about 170 tonnes of aid from Syria, but a similar convoy that arrived on Tuesday had been delayed after Israel destroyed the main highway bridges on the route.

Israel launched an offensive launched against Hizbollah in southern Lebanon after guerrillas seized two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12. Relief group Mercy Corps said heavy shelling around the southern town of Nabatiyeh had forced them to call off deliveries from Beirut but it planned to stockpile goods closer so it could move in and out of the area at short notice. "The security situation is so volatile that one minute it is safe and we are getting green lights to come, and then an hour or so later the place is under attack," said Cassandra Nelson, senior communications officer for Mercy Corps. She said aid workers had to switch tactics from sending dry goods south because people had run out of cooking fuel -- part of a larger crisis which the Health Ministry said on Tuesday would force hospitals to close in two or three days.
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said that, although Israel had told people to flee southern Lebanon, seemingly deserted villages still held many who were too poor or too frightened to leave. "When our teams visit villages, which is becoming very, very difficult in itself, even if they look empty there's always civilians left -- 10, 50, or maybe 500 in bigger towns," said MSF spokesman Bart Rijs. He said the agency had been forced to stay put in recent days but was considering moving again soon despite the Israeli imposed curfew. "We haven't tried to test it yet, but we would like to move out of Tyre again tomorrow," he said.

more pictures

In this photo released by the International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC workers pass boxes of aid supplies intended for southern Lebanon from one side of the Litani River to the other following Israeli bombardment, north of the port city of Tyre, southern Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2006. The road was destroyed in Israeli bombardment early Monday essentially sealing the city off from the rest of the country. (AP Photo/Marko Kokic/ICRC)
Workers from Medecins Sans Frontieres transfer medical supplies by hand across the Litani River, north of the port city of Tyre, southern Lebanon, August 7, 2006. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
The father of Lebanese Hadi Jaafar, 2, kisses his son's wrapped body during the mass funeral of Lebanese civilians in the southern town of Ghaziyeh, near the port city of Sidon, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2006, after they were killed when Israeli airstrikes flattened three buildings Monday killing fifteen people. Israeli airstrikes hit near a funeral procession in south Lebanon on Tuesday, sending some of the 1,500 mourners running in panic and killing at least 13 people in nearby buildings, witnesses, hospital officials and the town's mayor said. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

From Beirut to ... those who love us

This video letter was made on July 21, 2006 at the studios of Beirut DC, a film and cinema collective which runs the yearly Ayam Beirut Al Cinema'iya Film Festival. This video letter was produced in collaboration with Samidoun, a grassroots gathering of various organizations and individuals who were involved in relief and media efforts from the first day of the Israeli attack on Lebanon. It was also broadcast at the Biennial of Arab Cinema, organized by the Arab World Institute in Paris.

The "hiding among civilians" myth

The "hiding among civilians" myth
(please read the full article here)

Israel claims it's justified in bombing civilians because Hezbollah mingles with them. In fact, the militant group doesn't trust its civilians and stays as far away from them as possible.

By Mitch Prothero

Throughout this [now 16-day-old] war, Israeli planes high above civilian areas make decisions on what to bomb. They send huge bombs capable of killing things for hundreds of meters around those targets to destroy them, and then blame the inevitable civilian deaths -- the Lebanese government says [600] civilians have been killed so far -- on "terrorists" who callously use the civilian infrastructure for protection.
But this claim is almost always false. My own reporting and that of other journalists reveals that in fact Hezbollah fighters -- as opposed to the much more numerous Hezbollah political members, and the vastly more numerous Hezbollah sympathizers -- avoid civilians like the plague. Much smarter and better trained than the PLO and Hamas fighters, they know that if they mingle with civilians, they will sooner or later be betrayed by collaborators -- as so many Palestinian militants have been

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