28 October 2009

* Lebanon rocket provokes Israeli barrage

A Katyusha-type rocket fired from Lebanon hit northern Israel on Tuesday night without causing any casualties, prompting Israel to retaliate with a salvo of missiles.

The rocket fired from Lebanon hit open ground east of the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona and started a fire, which did not cause any serious damage, they said.
Witnesses in Kiryat Shmona said Israeli artillery retaliated by firing on targets in southern Lebanon. Asked to comment, an Israeli military source would neither confirm nor deny that.
Following the incident, a security source in Lebanon said eight rockets fired from Israeli hit near the border village of Hula. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
UN peacekeeping troops and the Lebanese army cut off the road leading to Hula and were searching the area, an AFP correspondent said.
Residents of Hula said they heard a rocket fired from the brush outside the village shortly before the rockets hit the area.
It was the fourth rocket attack this year from Lebanon towards Israel and comes as cross-border tensions have been increasing.

Cross-border tensions rising

On September 11, at least two rockets fired from the southern village of al-Qlaileh slammed into Israel without causing casualties but triggering retaliatory artillery fire.
A group linked to al-Qaeda claimed responsibility, according to US monitoring group SITE Intelligence.
In February, Israeli artillery bombarded al-Qlaileh in response to a rocket attack. There were no casualties in Lebanon, while a few Israelis were lightly wounded.
In January, during Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip, four rockets fired from Lebanon hit northern Israel, wounding two women.
Shi'ite movement Hezbollah, which fought a devastating 34-day war with Israel in 2006, has its stronghold in south Lebanon, where a rocket exploded on October 12 in the home of activist Abdel Nasser Issa in Tayr Felsay village.
The Israeli army released film it said showed rockets being removed from Issa's home following the explosion, but Hezbollah said the pictures were of metal shutters at the location where explosion happened.
The Israeli army said the blast "proves again the presence of weapons forbidden in southern Lebanon" under UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war.

Hezbollah 'creating a powderkeg'

The 34-day war killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
Resolution 1701 called for the removal of weapons in southern Lebanon from the hands of everyone except the Lebanese army and other state security forces.
Israel has repeatedly accused Hezbollah of rearming, and an Israeli army spokesman claimed on Tuesday night the group had "dozens of arms caches containing hundreds of rockets".
Following the October 12 incident, Israeli President Shimon Peres accused Hezbollah of having turned Lebanon into a powderkeg.
"It's not Israel that is endangering Lebanon, but rather Hezbollah, just as Hamas is endangering the Palestinians.
"There is no reason for Israel not to make peace with Lebanon," he said, adding that Israel's northern neighbour "could be, with the help of this peace, the Switzerland of the Middle East. But it's clear to everyone who is preventing this."


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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.