11 August 2008

* Barak vows to hit 'deep in Lebanon' if Hizbullah attacks

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak pledged "very tough" Israeli retaliation to any attack by Hizbullah, vowing to target areas "deep in Lebanon" Lebanese daily An-Nahar reported on Sunday. Barak warned against an "intimate relation" between Hizbullah and Syria saying it could lead into distorting the balance of power in Lebanon, "which would lead Israel to retaliate."
Meanwhile, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Thursday that Israel will hold Lebanon responsible for any attacks against Israel, in particular for any Hizbullah efforts to avenge the murder of its top military commander Imad Mughniyeh.
"This decision on Wednesday by the security Cabinet represents a change in Israeli policy, after always firmly separating Hizbullah and the Lebanese government," it reported.
According to defense establishment recommendations adopted by the security cabinet, Israel will treat the Lebanese unity government, which is headed by Fouad Siniora and includes Hizbullah, "as responsible for any event that takes place in its sovereign territory or events for which Lebanese nationals are responsible."
A source told Haaretz that if Hizbullah attacks Israel from inside Lebanese territory, shoots at Israel Air Force aircraft or carries out a terror attack abroad as revenge for the Mughniyeh assassination, which it attributes to Israel, then Israel will hold Lebanon responsible and respond appropriately.
"In the coming weeks, Israel plans to start transmitting this message to the United Nations, United States, Russia and European nations, and primarily to Syria and Hizbullah itself," Haaretz said.
The Haaretz report claimed that during the 2006 war on Lebanon, Israel avoided damaging Lebanese civilian infrastructure such as power stations, ports or government institutions, despite the recommendation of then-chief of staff Dan Halutz. Israel refrained from such attacks because of pressure from Washington, the report claimed.
"The US claimed that bombing Lebanese infrastructure would topple the moderate Siniora government," it added.
During the 34-day war, Israeli air strikes heavily targeted Lebanese infrastructure as well as civilian areas, including a power station, roads, bridges, communication systems, factories, airports, ports and Lebanese Army military bases. 
According to Haaretz, defense officials noted in the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday that "two developments" supported a change in policy.
"The first is the fact Hizbullah is now a partner in a Lebanese unity government and holds veto rights," the daily said.
"The second is that the policy statement of the new Lebanese government, approved by President Michel Sleiman, allows Hizbullah to continue its military activity against Israel," it added.
Haaretz reported that the Israeli defense establishment "believes these new conditions improve Israel's deterrent power as Hizbullah understands the severe ramifications of the new situation should there be any action against Israel in Lebanon or overseas."
Hizbullah's number two Sheikh Naim Qassem said last week Lebanese emigrants who support Hizbullah in its struggle against Israel, "should respect the laws and policies of their host countries and know that the fight against Israel should take place in Lebanon and not anywhere else."
(dailystar)

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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.