09 July 2007

FACTBOX-War in Lebanon, one year ago

July 8 (Reuters) - Nearly a year ago, Israel struck Beirut airport and blockaded Lebanese ports after Hezbollah fighters seized two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border attack.

Here are some details of the war which killed about 1,200 people in Lebanon and 158 Israelis:


-- On July 12, 2006, two Israeli soldiers -- Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser -- are captured and eight killed in Hezbollah raid into northern Israel. Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah says he wants to swap the pair for Lebanese prisoners held in Israel.


July 13 - Israeli aircraft bomb runways at Beirut airport. Katyusha rockets kill two Israelis in northern Israel.

July 14 - Israeli warplanes blast main Beirut-Damascus highway, tightening air, sea and land blockade of Lebanon. Jets also destroy apartment blocks housing residence and offices of Nasrallah, who survives the attack on Beirut's southern suburb.

July 16 - Katyusha rocket hits train depot in northern Israeli city of Haifa, killing eight people.

July 26 - International conference in Rome pledges to work for urgent, but not immediate, ceasefire and agrees on need for international peacekeeping force.

July 30 - Israeli planes attack southern village of Qana. Lebanon says initially that more than 50 civilians were killed but later revises toll to 28, about half of them children.

Aug 2 - Helicopter-borne commandos launch Israel's deepest raid into Lebanon, attacking targets in Hezbollah stronghold of Baalbek in northeast and killing 19 people.

Aug 6 - Katyusha rocket kills 12 Israeli reservist soldiers near northern Israeli kibbutz.

Aug 11 - U.N. Security Council unanimously adopts resolution 1701 calling for end to fighting, but Israel says it will not halt its offensive in Lebanon immediately.

Aug 12 - U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan says Israeli and Lebanese leaders agree to cease fire at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) on Aug. 14.

-- Lebanon approves U.N. resolution. Nasrallah says Hezbollah will abide by ceasefire once Israel adheres to it.

Aug 13 - Israeli troops battle Hezbollah across southern Lebanon and air strikes batter Beirut suburbs before truce.

-- Israel approves U.N. resolution.

Aug 14 - Fighting in south Lebanon stops abruptly at 8 a.m..


-- Lebanese troops deploy in south, linking up with U.N. peacekeepers to take control of Hezbollah strongholds as Israeli forces withdraw. The force grows to 15,000 soldiers south of Litani River, about 20 km (13 miles) from Israeli border.

-- A bigger U.N. force, known as UNIFIL II, starts deploying in south, with mandate to monitor cessation of hostilities and help Lebanese army keep region clear of other armed groups.

-- Israel completes withdrawal from Lebanon on Oct. 1, 2006, except for northern part of divided village of Ghajar. Lebanese army and UNIFIL take control of south under ceasefire deal.

-- Hundreds of thousands of cluster bombs dropped by Israeli planes and fired by artillery in final days of war kill 30 people and maim more than 200 in south in subsequent 12 months.

-- Israeli chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz, resigns on Jan. 17, 2007, citing Israeli failures in Lebanon war. Interim report on April 30 by Israeli commission finds that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert acted rashly in going to war, but stops short, pending final findings, of recommending he step down. (AlterNet)

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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.