(My Middle East)

77 days with a journalist, Lebanon, and a list of non sequiturs

Archive for June 29th, 2009

Déjà vu

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Check out this story from the LF of a similar occurrence of Amal fighting Jamaa Islamiya (a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood) in the  Aisha Bakkar,the same neighborhood as Sunday’s clashes but in 2008. It makes this claim “…they asked for help from al-Jamaa al-Islamia…,” in NOW Lebanon’s otherwise generally poor, heavily slanted article, based on hearsay an interesting one.

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Written by stephenddockery

June 29, 2009 at 11:41 pm

Reporting from Aisha Bakkar

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I got assigned to write the sider for the Aisha Bakkar story in the paper tomorrow. So I spent all day traveling around the area and talking to people. Even if the fighting went into other neighborhoods like people reported, it was mostly concentrated in Aisha Bakka. The Lebanese Armed Forces presence there was incredible, small wheeled tanks, armored personnel carriers, jeeps and tons of soldiers with machine guns. They were stationed on every street corner for around a mile and long trains LAF would rotate through periodically.

The situation in the neighborhood was intense. On one side of the main road was the Sunni neighborhood that suports the Future Movement and the other the Shia neighborhood. In the Sunni side, people were standing around, in groups obviously agitated, listening to older figures or talking among themselves. There were about 75 people just sitting and standing in the street, apparently talking about what to do. They were unperturbed by the continuous Police motorcycle that went through the neighborhood. I spoke to several people on the street and and they all said about the same thing. They were pissed off about the fighting and thought there would be retaliations for the killing of the woman (who was shot in the Sunni area).

The line from the Sunni’s was that Shia angry about celebratory fire came into the neighborhood and started shooting. That shouldn’t be trusted because that was all from sources in the Sunni area. But unfortunately I can’t offer a counter perspective because almost everyone in the Shia area wouldn’t talk to me. The most I got out of the Shia side after trying to talk to about 15 people was “everybody here waits”

One store keeper I spoke to said he saw men with guns from both sides getting ready to fight at around noon. So I’m sure there is more to it than what appears.

Either way the situation was tense on both sides of the road, and I think it will come down to how effectively the LAF can control the area and that further fighting doesn’t break out in other neighborhoods. Check for the story tomorrow and I’ll post it here as well.

Written by stephenddockery

June 29, 2009 at 10:06 pm

Clashes in Beirut Sunday

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One woman was killed and several wounded (6 according to Now Lebanon) Sunday evening in clashes in Beirut between supporters of the Future Movement, which is led by PM Saad Hariri and supporters of Amal, led by Speaker Nabih Berri. Apparently one Lebanese solider was wounded as well.

The clashes started in the Aisha Bakkar neighborhood and involved gun and RPG fire. The clashes then spread, but its not entirely definitive where they spread to. Heres all the neighborhoods listed in the news reports I’ve read: “Salim Salam, Mosseitbeh and Mar Elias (Now Lebanon) Mar Elias, Verdun, Hay el-Lija, Musaitbeh and Khandaq al-Ghamiq” (Lebanese Forces) Mar Elias (Tayyar).

The Lebanese Armed Forces apparently had the neighborhoods where the fighting was cordoned off and under control by 9 p.m. They threatened to shoot anyone with a gun.

It’s a slightly surprising change given the calm thats been prevalent since the elections, there was a general sense of reconciliation. Ms Tee at B-Side Beirut blames it on the smaller number of votes than expected cast for Berri when he was re-elected speaker, and a possible disagreement between Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Things seem to be calm on Shia Chat, an English language forum. If thats any sign of anything, I don’t know.

Also, heres a brief report from Tayyar, Minister of Interior Ziad Baroud says the usual things, but an interesting line was this one

“Answering a question about weapons being seen a lot with ordinary people he said that the natural place for arms is in the hands of the LAF”

I don’t know who asked the question or if it was based on fact, but it’ something to follow.

Written by stephenddockery

June 29, 2009 at 10:27 am