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Thousands In Beirut Come Out Against Hezbollah

Annie

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This Christian leader is very brave, but I don't think he's long for this world:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060924/ap_on_re_mi_ea/mideast_christians

In Beirut, large rally against Hezbollah

By HUSSEIN DAKROUB, Associated Press Writer2 hours, 54 minutes ago

An anti-Syrian Christian leader dismissed Hezbollah's claims of victory in its war with Israel as tens of thousands of his supporters rallied Sunday in a show of strength that highlighted Lebanon's sharp divisions.

The rally north of Beirut came just two days after a massive gathering by the rival Shiite Muslim Hezbollah that attracted hundreds of thousands. The two sides have been at sharp odds over the future of the Lebanese government since this summer's Israeli-Hezbollah war.

Samir Geagea, a notorious former leader of a Christian militia, scoffed at Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah's declaration that his guerrillas achieved "a victory" against Israel.

"I don't feel victory because the majority of the Lebanese people do not feel victory. Rather, they feel that a major catastrophe had befallen them and made their present and future uncertain," he said.

Hezbollah's fight with Israel sent its support soaring among Shiites. But a large sector — particularly among Christians and Sunni Muslims — opposes Hezbollah and resents it for provoking the monthlong fight by capturing two Israeli soldiers on July 12.

The war killed hundreds of Lebanese civilians and left part of the country's infrastructure in ruins, causing billions of dollars in damage to the economy.

Geagea, who served more than a decade in prison on multiple counts of murder dating to the 1975-90 civil war, backs the Western-leaning government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. His party is a member of the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority in Lebanon.

Geagea's supporters, waving his pictures and the white, red and green flag of his Lebanese Forces Party, arrived in buses and cars at the shrine of the Virgin Mary in the town of Harissa, about 15 miles north of Beirut.

Addressing his supporters after a mass to commemorate Christian militiamen killed in the civil war, Geagea rejected Nasrallah's vow to keep his weapons, saying the guerrilla group was blocking the establishment of "a strong and capable (Lebanese) state" for which Nasrallah was calling.

"When we find a solution to (the issue of Hezbollah's) weapons, then it will be possible to establish the state as it should be," he said.

Geagea, who backs Hezbollah's disarmament, implicitly accused the Iranian- and Syrian-backed group of running "a state within a state" in south Lebanon.

"How can a state be established while there is a mini-state (within its borders)? How can this state be established while every day arms and ammunitions are smuggled (to Hezbollah) under its (the state's) nose?" he said.

Nasrallah vowed at a massive rally Friday in Beirut's southern suburbs not to disarm despite international pressure. Some 800,000 Hezbollah supporters cheered Nasrallah at the gathering to celebrate what Hezbollah called "a divine victory" against Israel in the 34-day war that ended on Aug. 14.

In his speech, Nasrallah also called for the formation of a new government, repeatedly attacking Saniora's administration, which he called weak and unable to protect Lebanon from Israel.

Hezbollah's push for a stronger political role could deepen tensions in a country already sharply divided over the war.

Geagea rejected Nasrallah's call for a new government, defending Saniora's administration. Despite "some loopholes and defects," it is for the first time "a Lebanese, sovereign and independent one," he said.

Syria dominated Lebanon for nearly three decades before it withdrew its troops last year under heavy international pressure following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Syria is accused of involvement in Hariri's death, which it denies.

Geagea was arrested in April 1994 and his group was banned after a church bombing killed 10 people. He was later acquitted in the bombing but sentenced to three life terms on several other murder counts, including the killing of pro-Syrian Prime Minister Rashid Karami.

Geagea served 11 years in prison before he was released in July 2005, when Lebanon's parliament approved a motion to pardon him.

He was leader of the Lebanese Forces — the country's most powerful Christian militia during the Lebanese civil war. Israel backed the militia during that conflict and the Israeli invasion in 1982 to expel Palestinian guerrillas.
 

shepherdboy

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Annie

Annie

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So what ever happen to the so called disarment of Hezbollah weapons? I guess the U.N. is once again a total failure. Not to mention the occupation of Lebanon by Iran, oh I mean Hezbollah. Its more of the same with yet another war brewing in the Middle East with the same people starting it, Islam.

Here's the answer:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/25/w...ca69c1631&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

September 25, 2006
U.N. Force Is Treading Lightly on Lebanese Soil
By MICHAEL SLACKMAN

TIBNIN, Lebanon, Sept. 24 — One month after a United Nations Security Council resolution ended a 34-day war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia, members of the international force sent to help keep the peace say their mission is defined more by what they cannot do than by what they can.

They say they cannot set up checkpoints, search cars, homes or businesses or detain suspects. If they see a truck transporting missiles, for example, they say they can not stop it. They cannot do any of this, they say, because under their interpretation of the Security Council resolution that deployed them, they must first be authorized to take such action by the Lebanese Army.

The job of the United Nations force, and commanders in the field repeat this like a mantra, is to respect Lebanese sovereignty by supporting the Lebanese Army. They will only do what the Lebanese authorities ask.


The Security Council resolution, known as 1701, was seen at the time as the best way to halt the war, partly by giving Israel assurances that Lebanon’s southern border would be policed by a robust international force to prevent Hezbollah militants from attacking. When the resolution was approved, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, one of its principal architects, said the force’s deployment would help “protect the Lebanese people and prevent armed groups such as Hezbollah from destabilizing the area.”

But the resolution’s diplomatic language skirted a fundamental question: what kind of policing power would be given to the international force? The resolution leaves open the possibility that the Lebanese Army would grant such policing power, but the force’s commanders say that so far, at least, that has not happened.

“There’s a lot of misunderstanding what we are doing here,” said Lt. Col. Stefano Cappellaro, an Italian commander with the San Marco Regiment.

The force, known as the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, or Unifil, now has 5,000 troops on the ground, including 1,000 from Italy, and is stepping gently as it tries to carve out a role in a country that is feeling its way through the postwar period. It is early in the United Nations mission, but officials say that their most difficult task, and one they are adamant about achieving, is not being drawn into any power struggles between the religious and political factions in Lebanon. “We will not get involved in any domestic or regional politics,’’ said Milos Strugar, senior adviser to the force.

The force is larger and better equipped than an earlier Unifil contingent, which has been on the border with Israel for years. But at the moment, the Lebanese government and the United Nations have a similar agenda in trying to win the trust of the Lebanese people and not have the force become a tool of political factions looking to incite domestic conflict. The goal is to be viewed as a peacekeeping force, not an occupier.

So while there may have been some expectation that the international force would disarm or restrain Hezbollah, or search for hidden weapons caches, the commanders on the ground say very clearly that those tasks are not their job for now. “We will advise, help and assist the Lebanese forces,” said Col. Rosario Walter Guerrisi, commander of the San Marco Regiment, referring to the Lebanese Army.

But the challenges facing their determined neutrality are significant and often beyond their control. In Syria, for example, President Bashar al-Assad was reported in the Lebanese news media to have told a visiting Lebanese delegation that the strengthened United Nations force, with its heavy European contingent, resembled a force from NATO. In Lebanon, the United Nations force found its credibility questioned when German officials said that their country would contribute to the naval patrols off the coast of Lebanon as a means to protect Israel.

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has also questioned the purpose of the expanded force.

“Thus far, I have not heard any country participating in the Unifil say that it sent its sons and soldiers to defend Lebanon and the Lebanese,” he said in a speech Friday before hundreds of thousands of his supporters. “They are ashamed of us, brothers and sisters. They are ashamed of saying they came to defend us, but they talk about defending Israel.”

Hezbollah has so far acted in accordance with the cease-fire terms of 1701, which prohibits the deployment of weapons south of the Litani River, close to the Israeli border.

When the United Nations Security Council passed 1701, which set up the cease-fire, it outlined basic principles with few specifics. One of those principles was that militias were to be disarmed in compliance with earlier agreements and resolutions. It did not say, though, that the United Nations force would carry that out.

Hezbollah, the only militia that did not lay down its weapons after the Lebanese civil war ended, has made it clear that it is not going to surrender those weapons now. And Sheik Nasrallah made it clear that the international forces had better not even think about trying.

In Israel, skepticism about the effectiveness of the enlarged United Nations force has always been high, particularly about disarming Hezbollah or enforcing the arms embargo on it. Israeli military officials have said that if they find evidence that trucks from Syria are resupplying rockets and launchers to Hezbollah, Israel will be justified in bombing those trucks. Israel also notes that Unifil is barely 5,000 troops now, just 3,000 more than the old Unifil, still a long way from the 15,000 foreseen in the U.N. resolution.

The United Nations officials here say their primary duty, and the one that carries the most long-term benefits for both sides, is to help strengthen the Lebanese Army. At the moment, officials say the first priority is to make sure that all of the Israeli Defense Forces withdraw from land occupied during the war. United Nations officials said the process should be completed by the end of the month. The process involves weekly meetings along the border to set up a schedule that allows Israel to withdraw and the United Nations forces to move in, followed by the Lebanese forces. So far 85 percent of Israel’s forces have withdrawn, the United Nations said.

The formula for ending the war was also contingent on the state’s asserting its authority in the south, primarily by dispatching 15,000 Lebanese troops to the area. The resolution called for the Lebanese Army to be supplemented by up to 15,000 foreign troops. Officials say that the ultimate size of the foreign force will be determined based on need — and one United Nations adviser said that meant it was unlikely the number of troops would ever exceed 10,000.

But however large the force, its officers said it would never be large enough if the population began to view it as an occupying force. The United Nations first set up an international force here in 1976, and so the people of the region are accustomed to seeing foreign troops in the blue berets of the United Nations.

But the new troops have stepped into Lebanon at a particularly tense time, as Hezbollah and the American-supported government are jockeying for position and power. If the Lebanese government did decide to expand the responsibilities of the troops now, they would risk turning them into targets of attack. These forces are much better equipped than past forces, and that has people a bit nervous about their mission.

“If these troops are going to clash with the resistance, they are going to clash with the people,” said Abu Rowda Noureddin, 64, as he collected free blankets and food supplies from the Red Crescent Society. He lives in the village of Burj Qalawiyah, a community of just 1,000 year-round residents in southern Lebanon that took heavy fire from Israeli jets.

The village is about 70 miles from Beirut and a short drive from a base staffed by Italian forces. Like most residents of neighboring villages, the people were essentially ignored by their government for many years. There is one school, no high school and few jobs. Villagers said that five times since 1972 the Israeli military had invaded their village, and so even those who said they did not count themselves as Hezbollah members said they counted themselves as Hezbollah supporters.

“The people here will fight against anybody who tries with force to take Hezbollah’s weapons away,’’ said Ibrahim Noureddin, another villager.

Up the hill, past houses pocked by shrapnel, the mukhtar, a kind of village administrator, was busy taking an inventory of the damage to crops and olive and fruit trees. He said that the Italian forces recently gave his community $3,000 to buy aluminum and glass to repair the school, which was damaged in an Israeli raid. “It was a very nice gesture on the part of the Italians,” he said.

But like everyone else, he said that for the forces to remain welcome they must demonstrate they are there to protect the Lebanese from Israel — not to police the Lebanese on behalf of Israel.


Not far away, on a busy road heading toward Beirut, Colonel Cappellaro stood beside two armored personnel carriers and 11 of his soldiers as cars sped by. He said that they were conducting a “static point,” as opposed to a checkpoint. If they saw anything suspicious they would notify the Lebanese Army. But the Lebanese Army was a good way up the road. At this point, he said, it would be impossible for the two forces to actually staff a check point together.

“When you don’t know each other’s procedures, you can not overlap,” he said before climbing into his jeep and driving off.
 

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