Free Headline Alerts     
Worldwide Web


Wednesday, August 25, 2010     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Fighting breaks out in Lebanon between Sunnis and Hizbullah

NICOSIA — The Sunni community has begun to resist the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah in Lebanon during the most serious political crisis in years.


Hizbullah and Sunni fighters exchanged heavy fire in which at least four people were killed and 10 others injured. The battle on Aug. 24 included members of the pro-Syrian Al Ahbash, believed funded by Saudi Arabia.

"The situation is very tense and the military is in the area," a Lebanese source said.

Also In This Edition

The Lebanese Army sent several armored personnel carriers and other combat vehicles to the Beirut neighborhood of Burj Abi Haidar. But the military presence has not quelled the violence, called the worst in the Lebanese capital since a Hizbullah offensive in 2008.

The source said both Hizbullah and Al Ahbash, formally known as the Sunni Muslim Association of Islamic Charitable Projects, fired heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Hizbullah fighters also attacked and torched businesses linked to Al Ahbash. Al Ahbash was said to be receiving funds from Saudi Arabia to help protect the Sunni community in Lebanon.

Burj Abi Haidar is a mixed neighborhood in which tensions have long simmered between Sunnis and Hizbullah supporters. The latest fighting was said to have been sparked by a fracas that quickly escalated into gunfire and casualties.

In the first stage of fighting, a Hizbullah commander, identified as Mohammed Fawaz, was killed by Al Ahbash gunfire. The word of the killing brought hundreds of Hizbullah gunmen to Burj Abi Haidar. The Shi'ite-dominated Lebanese Army sought to cordon the neighborhood but did not intervene in the fighting.

This marked the first sectarian fighting since a crisis erupted between Hizbullah and Prime Minister Said Hariri in August. A Lebanese tribunal has linked Hizbullah to the assassination of Hariri's father, a former prime minister, in 2005. Hizbullah was said to have threatened to kill Said if the investigation was not quelled.

Fawaz was identified as a regional Hizbullah commander in the Beirut area. Witnesses said Fawaz had been arguing with an Al Ahbash operative over a parking space in what led to the gun battle.

"The hostility is growing rapidly but this does not seem to yet reflect a wider confrontation," a diplomat said.

Hizbullah has demanded that the Sunni killer of Fawaz be handed over to authorities. At the same time, Defense Minister Elias Murr announced a ban on unlicensed weapons in the country.

By Aug. 25, army commanders were seeking to impose a ceasefire amid the threat that sectarian fighting would spread beyond Beirut. Al Ahbash said an agreement, which included Hizbullah security chief Wafiq Safa, had been reached by morning following a night of fighting.

"An agreement was reached with Hizbullah during a meeting at army intelligence headquarters," Al Ahbash spokesman Abdul Kader Fakhani said. "The army will open an investigation into the fighting."

During the clash, Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah called for the modernization of Lebanon's military to prepare for war with Israel. Nasrallah said the Lebanese military needed Arab weapons more than money.

"All Arab countries say that they love Lebanon," Nasrallah said. "I suggest that the government define the type of weapons [the army needs] and tell Arab countries: 'We don't want money, We want weapons.' "

About Us     l    Contact Us     l     l
Copyright © 2010    East West Services, Inc.    All rights reserved.