Beirut Airport Besieged, Hizbullah Heads to Declaring Civil Disobedience
‘Tension went high between Hizbullah and Premier Fouad Saniora’s government on Wednesday as the party besieged Beirut airport and headed to declaring civil disobedience after eight people were wounded in mushrooming rioting.
Scores of Hizbullah trucks and bulldozers erected barricades along the airport road, besieging at least 300 passengers who had arrived aboard four jetliners.
Hizbullah officials informed mediators that the airport would remain closed and the ongoing riots would be escalated into civil disobedience until the Saniora Government withdraws decisions it had adopted against the Party’s communications network and head of the airport security department Wafiq Shoqeir.
Meanwhile, the Voice of Lebanon radio said Hizbullah members were dressed up in police uniforms and penetrating districts of Beirut controlled by their rivals of the Mustaqbal movement.
A government source also said Hizbullah was massing gunmen in downtown Beirut, sparking fears of a possible attack against Saniora’s office.
The development followed day long riots across Beirut as the labor union suspended a demonstration it had called for.
Three members of the Mustaqbal movement were wounded when assailants from the Hizbullah-led opposition demolished their office with 30 Rocket-Propelled Grenades in Beirut’s densely populated Nweiri district.
Two Lebanese Army soldiers were injured by rocks while trying to disperse a clash between opposition supporters and residents of the Tariq Jedideh district.
Two news photographers and a passer by were beaten up by rioters in Korniche Mazraa thoroughfare and suffered minor fractures, hospital sources said.
Meanwhile tension escalated as staccato bursts of automatic rifle fire echoed across several Beirut districts amidst efforts by army and police patrols to contain the violence.
Trucks run by Hizbullah’s Jihad al-Binaa institute loaded dirt along the Beirut Airport road, blocking traffic to the facility, which has been closed to civil aviation.
Ghassan Ghoson, chairman of the General federation of Labor Unions (GFLU) said a demonstration that had been scheduled to start at 10 a.m. was “suspended” due to the blocking of roads that prevented potential participants from reaching Beirut’s Barbir Square where it was supposed to start.
Ghoson, however, said the general strike was persisting and blamed the government for not providing protection for the demonstrators.
The strike was observed only in Hizbullah-controlled regions of Lebanon, where supporters of the party set fire to rubber tires, blocking traffic.
However, the strike call was totally ignored in areas loyal to the March 14 majority. Life was normal in north and Mount Lebanon as well as in areas of east Lebanon and Beirut not loyal to Hizbullah.
About 150 Hizbullah operatives infiltrated from their makeshift Tent City and blocked the Beirut port road with rubber tires and obstacles for nearly 30 minutes, but were challenged by motorists who drove across the barricades before an army patrol intervened and reported the road to traffic.
The strike observed by Beirut Airport workers was scheduled to end at 3 p.m., but Hizbullah refused to reopen the road to the facility. Nevertheless, three jetliners landed at the facility shortly after the deadline.
Meanwhile Mustaqbal Movement MP Mohammed Qabbani said the majority was considering activating the Rene Mouawad airport in north Lebanon if the dispute with Hizbullah persisted.’