23 August 2007

Hizbullah sets up own phone network

Hizbullah has reportedly set up a phone network in Southern Lebanon and the Bekaa and is currently extending it to Beirut and the southern suburb.

[Telcommunication minister Marwan] Hamadeh revealed that the installation of underground cables, which run parallel to the state's phone system, had been "discovered by chance and following ample rumors" in the southern town of Zawtar al-Sharqieh in the Nabatiyeh district.

"(The ministry) has discovered by chance that a new telephone network is being created along that of the state in Zawtar al-Sharqieh," Hamadeh said in a radio interview. He said that "technical reports" later showed that the work has expanded to reach Yohmor in east Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, with another wireless networking being set up between the port city of Tyre and Abbassieh as well as in other regions of the Tyre province.

Hamadeh also uncovered similar works are underway in Beirut and the southern suburbs (Dahiyeh). During a cabinet session on Monday, the ministers discussed what Hamadeh termed a "violation of the Lebanese sovereignty" and called for setting up a ministerial committee to investigate and settle the issue. (Naharnet)

Almost everybody in Lebanon knew that Hizbullah had developed its own communications infrastructure. We hope the timing of the minister's discovery means that there's a decision to start dismantling their mini-state.

The formation of a ministerial committee was condemned by the Zawtar municipality, which described the public announcement by the minister as irresponsible because it makes their village a target for an Israeli attack. The pro-Hizbullah "popular committees coalition" said the government is acting against national security.

Meanwhile, the cabinet has not commented on measures by Hibzullah requiring journalists visiting "Hizbullah areas" to obtain permits from Hizbullah's "media office". Here's a new account by Charles Levinson, who could not obtain a permit and was prevented from entering an allegedly abandoned "Christian village" in the South by a Hizbullah member posing as an "agriculture student".-(beirutbeltway)

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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.