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Lebanon: Violent Clashes and an Explosion

The clashes between the Lebanese army and the organization of Fatah al Islam, as well as the explosion in Ashrafieh (Beirut), took precedence over all other news and blog posts in almost all of the blogs during the past two days. Following are quotes from a number of these posts including a post quoting a civilian trapped in the camp of Nahr el Barid in North Lebanon, in the crossfire, between the army and the organization.

In the Nahr el Barid Camp

In a very rare blog post on the conditions in the camp where some members of Fath al Islam are reported to be hiding, A Shouly quotes Ahmad, his friend, who is one of many trapped in the crossfire:

Ahmad, a friend of mine, living in the camp, told me that they don't have water now, nor bread, nor hospitals. They are starting to feel hungry, they can't take the injuries outside the camp nor the dead, mostly civilians.


Explosion in Ashrafieh–Beirut

Golaniya who lives in Ashrafieh, was awake and out when the explosion in a parking near the ABC shopping mall occurred at about midnight on Sunday. She shared with her readers what was her first experience with the aftermath of a violent explosion as well as her anxiety over the safety of her sister who was at home, a couple of blocks from the explosion.

I was walking on glasses, glasses of bed rooms, living rooms, of homes. It was so crowded, with families wearing pajamas, pink, blue, yellow, scared, panicked, I saw a guy with a wet face, and a woman grabbed my friend's arm asking him about her house, we left her.
I don't know why, but I shed a tear.
I looked at my Southern friend's face, he was in the South when Israel bombed it, he heard the noises, saw the red, all this is very familiar to him, very not to me.
I saw the fire, I saw the giant thing glowing in the panicked people's eyes, I do not know how does it feel to be Lebanese, to have a Lebanese face, I haven't lived a “civil” war, nor a terrorist war, June war. I haven't heard a single noise outside the screen, we shared history??

Word on the Street
Jounoune mentions some of what the people on the streets are saying concerning the origins of the militants in the north of Lebanon:

The Government is blaming Syria. I am really not a fan of Syria but word on the streets is that militants in the north (said to be linked to Al Qaeda) have been funded and armed to create sunni arms in response to the shia's hizballah. The word on the street is that Lebanese sunnis will not hold arms and fight so yes, such militants have been created and grown as a possible retaliation. Of course, just like the US couldn't control Al Qaeda which in reality it helped create, these militants will be very hard if not impossible to control as well. Proof of the matter… these days events.

And in a witty article, Jamal mentions some facts about the situation which he describes as circulating rumours that we should beware:

The panic and fear engulfing the مساطيل [fools] makes them susceptible to any rumors that might answer their question “Whodunit?” Who's the big bad wolf? Of course the big bad wolf is banking on this chaos and on these rumors to feed the already pre-conceived convictions and ignite the pent up hatred.
Anyways this مسطول [fool] just wants to point out that some widely circulated rumors, are just that rumors, and hopes that his مساطيل [foolish] buddies do not adopt these propaganda lines as facts and speed up the nose dive into the shit pond that awaits us. […] 3.) The nutbags are not exclusively Palestinian, most of them are actually مساطيل with some nutbags from various other Middle Eastern countries. […] 6.) The مساطيل [fools] don't love life. A large number of people showed more outrage for the glass shattered in ABC than for the tens of soldiers and civilians dead during the day.

Blame Game
The two major Lebanese groups, the pro–government and the opposition threw allegations at each other as a result of the situation. Abu Ali summarized this blame game and added his opinion in a post in which he said:

The two camps in Lebanon are now throwing allegations at each other, each sticking to the usual litany: The pro-Government group accuses Fateh al Islam of being Syrian agents, in charge of derailing the international tribunal by holding Lebanon hostage. The opposition describes Fateh al Islam as a creature of the Hariri group, brought in to oppose the Shi’a expansion on sectarian basis. They point to the fact that Mr. Fatfat, when he was Minister of Interior, gave official recognition to Hizb al Tahrir, a Sunni party fighting for the reinstatement of the Caliphate. Hizb al Tahrir became famous for its strong expression of dislike towards Danish cartoonists by burning churches in Ashrafieh.

I wonder who those Fateh al Islam are anyway. There has been so little transparency in reporting the events of the past 2 days that one is unsure what is and what is not true. Are they Palestinians? We hear that only part of them are, and that the group is mostly made up of Lebanese Sunnis from the squalid areas of the North, like Bab el Tebbaneh. Places like Bab el Tebbaneh are truly the poorest areas of Lebanon, only the Palestinian camps are worse.

Updates
MFL and Blacksmith Jade are two bloggers posting updates on security situation.

Civilian Casualties
Mustapha raised the issue of the civilian casualties and the ethical issues that it poses:

Indeed, terrorists hiding among civilians pose a moral dilemma, and the humanitarian crisis should not be ignored. But does that mean that the Army should somehow start “talking” with terrorists whose only aim is to destabilize Lebanon?
A lot is at stake in the Army’s zero-tolerance policy. A “softer” and “more understanding” Army will send the wrong signals to would-be-terrorists that it is ok in the future to attack the military. Moreover, the Army has to send a clear message to the residents of the camps: Not handing the terrorists over will cost you much more than keeping them around.


On Fatah al Islam and On How Will the Clashes End

Abu Kais explains why the army can never lose this battle:

This battle cannot be won by Fatah al-Islam. They are outnumbered by the increasingly popular army, even though they seem to have a lot of weapons. The group, which the head of the Internal Security Forces called “imitation al-Qaeda”, consists of former Iraq fighters and international terrorists. That they all got into Lebanon with the help of Syrian intelligence should be a confirmation to all that the Assad regime is a major sponsor of world terror. According to An-Nahar, one of the killed terrorists was involved in the Ain Alaq bombings in February, and another was wanted over the 2006 plot to blow up trains in Germany.

Jeha wrote on what he sees are the role and objectives of the organization of Fatah al Islam:

Groups like those Fath Al-Islam and other similar fundamentalist groups are “true believers”.
In practice, they are opportunists who follow whatever the “cause du jour” happens to be. They have become more vocal and were overdue for some action; with the approach of the Hariri tribunal, their Syrian masters may have seized their chance to “activate” them. That much was clear to the Mufti, who called for support to the Lebanese armed forces as the fighting got bloodier.
In theory, it was meant to be different, at least from the perspective of the cannon fodder they recruit. The ideology of Fath Al-Islam and similar groups is geared towards a return to the heydays of the Caliphate. While this particular outfit is focused on a return to Palestine, others want a return to Al-Andalus.

And finally, As’ad Abu Khalil believes that the whole situation will end up in a stalemate with things returning to their “abnormal” conditions as they always do in Lebanon:

This is typical. We have seen this before. The Lebanese Army is given an opportunity by the political class (and by the sectarian sects–all of them) to show muscle, but only against the refugee camps of Lebanon. I remember this from my childhood. Back in 1973, Israeli terrorists (headed by Ehud Barak) sneaked into Lebanon and killed Palestinian leaders: one of them was a poet sleeping in his bed (Kamal Nasir). The Lebanese Army did not lift a finger–it never does against Israel.[…]
But make no mistake: nothing will change. It will end like every other incident of this kind ends: in a stalemate, and in things returning back to abnormal. This is Lebanon.

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