CAIRO: Hezbollah seized control of West Beirut as the third day of fighting in the Lebanese capital indicated that the crisis is far from being averted.
The latest violence is spreading fears that the current escalation could be a precursor to another civil war as a 17-month standoff between the Shia group and the majority government could not be contained by diplomatic measures.
Friday saw the Future Party of Saad Al Hariri the main target of Hezbollah militias with the offices of the party newspaper of the same name destroyed. The party’s satellite channel was ordered to stop broadcasting or face the consequences.
“Events are moving very quickly, there is a new balance in the relations between the powers in Lebanon, head of the International Relations Unit at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies Hassan Abu Taleb told Daily News Egypt, “an extension for Hezbollah on the ground and therefore a decrease for its opponents.
On Friday Hezbollah supporter Iran accused the US and Israel of being behind the latest spate of violence which once again grips the fragile country in the vice of war.
“Adventurous efforts and interventions by the United States and the Zionist regime are the main cause of the continuous chaotic situation in Lebanon, foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said.
“We hope that those who have been responsible for creating this situation exert the effort needed to restore stability and calm to Lebanon, he added.
So far 11 people have been killed including a mother and her child in clashes between Hezbollah and Sunni militias supporting the US-backed government of Prime Minister Fouad Senoira.
Al Hariri had offered a ceasefire to Hezbollah Thursday under certain conditions but it was refused later that night. Hezbollah wants the decision to shut down its private telecommunications network revoked immediately.
“Both initiatives by the opposing groups cannot be implemented in the current circumstances, Abu Taleb said, “currently the stronger party is Hezbollah and its supporters and their demands to revoke the decision seems to be the more applicable one.
The government announced on Tuesday that it would shut down a telecommunications network belonging to Hezbollah which was spread throughout Lebanon and allegedly linked to a Syrian network. They also shut down Hezbollah surveillance cameras at Rafik Al Hariri airport in Beirut.
Hezbollah highly prizes its telecommunications networks which are central to their military and leader Hassan Nasrallah had declared that it was vital to the group’s victory in the 2006 war Israel launched on Lebanon. Nasrallah declared that the government’s decision was an act of war against the group.
The Arab League has called for an extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers to address the crisis in Lebanon.
Abu Taleb said, “There are other roles for non-Lebanese parties, such as the US, Iran and the Arabs, so it seems things won’t move forward. Most Arab countries that will go to the Arab League meeting are looking for a unified position not an individual one. This is because they know no Arab country can move alone successfully.
“An exit strategy is needed which will make all sides feel they have not lost face. Lebanese politics is based on the concept of not winning but also not losing, he added.