Beirut on the brink of another civil war
by Paul Dakiki
Clashes between government and opposition supporters continue. Hizbullah demands the government withdraw its measures against the party’s communications network. Grand Mufti says Sunnis have had enough. Military warns the present situation threatens its unity.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – At least one person is dead and many more are wounded in the second day of clashes between government and opposition supporters in Beirut. Increasingly the country seems to be on the brink of a civil war like the one that brought much bloodshed in 1975-1990.

Significantly, in addition to clashes and road blocks in Beirut and the Bekaa Valley, and the shutdown of the capital’s airport, the army cut off all roads between Shiyah and Ein el-Rummaneh, the former demarcation line between Christian and Muslim areas where the 1975 civil war began. Two important political developments are also making the news. 

First Hizbullah has called for “civil disobedience”, demanding the government rescind its decision to shut down the party’s illegal communications network and instead reinstate Wafiq Shqeir, the head of the airport security department who was sacked from his job for allowing Hizbullah to install spy cameras to monitor movement to and fro the airport.

Late in the morning Sheikh Abdel Amir Qabalan, vice president of the Higher Shiite Council, added his voice, labelling the government decision against Hizbullah’s telecommunications network a “crime”, calling it a scheme to sow discord and facilitate Israel’s work.

Secondly in a statement issued last night Grand Mufti Mohammed Rashid Qabbani said on TV that “Sunni Muslims in Lebanon have had enough.” In it he warned Hizbullah’s supporters to withdraw from Beirut’s Sunni neighbourhoods.

In unusually harsh words, the spiritual leader of Lebanon’s Sunnis described Hizbullah as “armed gangs of outlaws who have carried out the ugliest attacks against citizens and their safety,” and demanded an “end to these (Shia) violations.”

Without mentioning the name, he also accused Iran, saying “it is regrettable and sad that an Islamic state is funding such infringements that hurt the unity of Lebanese Muslims.”

Later in the afternoon Mount Lebanon Mufti Mohammed Jouzou joined in, warning Hizbullah against operating under the umbrella of the resistance.

And in an even more ominous statement the Lebanese Army Command said that if the present situation persisted it would pose a threat to the military establishment’s unity.