So. After heavy fighting around Aley and Shoueifat, the Chouf has now been surrendered by Walid Junblatt’s PSP militia to his Druze rival Talal Arslan and/or Hizbullah (allied with Arslan) and/or the Lebanese army, who are basically managing HA-conquered territory after the opposition forces beat and disarmed whichever M14-allied militia they were fighting. The clashes in the Chouf have been especially heavy and fierce, with heavy artillery being used and a relatively high death toll. They started on friday night in Aley when the PSP managed to kill 7 HA fighters – they also kidnapped three HA fighters, two of which were killed and their bodies were disfigured, i.e. their ears were cut off in what is said to be a traditional Druze habit… This is probably what triggered the other side to bring in the heavy weaponry, not used anywhere else in Lebanon yet. In Tripoli, a Mustaqbal stronghold, the battle isn’t over yet and fighting in Akkar in the north – between the SSNP, largely an Alawite affair in this region, and Mustaqbal militias, doesn’t seem to have ended either. The army’s actions are causing it to be seen by more and more people as an auxiliary of Hizbullah/Amal/SSNP, resulting according to Harold Doornbos in the resignation of 22 sunni officers from the LAF. Meanwhile, Arab League foreign ministers have met and are planning to send a delegation to Lebanon on wednesday ‘to end the fighting’… Hell yeah, that’ll have everybody scared! Especially as Amr Moussa insists the delegation will arrive at… the Rafiq Hariri International Airport (now known in Lebanon variously as ‘the Hassan Nasrallah International Airport’ or ‘the former airport’…)
The total death toll as of yesterday (sunday) night is cited as 47 – which is in fact surprisingly low considering just how much shooting, RPG-ing and general armed mayhem has been going on for the last five days or so, and considering the literally thousands of armed men of all hues, ages, motivations, colours and description swarming the streets and fighting each other all over the country. 188 people were wounded in all. Those are the death and wounded figures of your average US ‘precision’ missile attack in Iraq or Afghanistan… Partly of course this is because HA has been keeping most of its professional fighters at the Israeli border, while using the Amal guys to do most of the fighting within Lebanon, while Mustaqbal equally sent in young, untrained kids – generally called ‘za3ran’ by the Beirutis, meaning ‘riffraff’ or ‘hooligans’ – in fact most of those fighting each other in Beirut were brought infrom outside the city (from the south of the country in the case of the opposition and from the equally impoverished north for the pro-government miltias). Basically it seems we had a lot of young kids and irregulars shooting into empty streets most of the time, making a lot of primate look-at-me noise while carefully avoiding the opponent – and all the the while of course locking the actual inhabitants of the city into their houses and generally scaring the shit out of everybody… The exception to all this was evidently the fighting in the Chouf, which was the most serious and deadliest instance of the past days, where far heavier weaponry was used and the PSP militiamen put up a real rather than token resistance.
On the Mustaqbal militias and their arming and financing over the past 3 years in an evidently flawed attempt to create a sunni counterweight against the shia militias, see Bouzou Daragahi and Raed Rafei in the LA Times here.
Fighting in Tripoli has been flaring up while I’m writing this, resulting in two more deaths (yesterday a 12-year old girl was reportedly killed there by a sniper…).