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Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah

Hezbollah Overruns West Beirut

May 09, 2008 04:30 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
by findingDulcinea staff
The fighting between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government was concentrated in west Beirut today, pushing the nation closer to full-blown civil war.

30-Second Summary

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The Shia militant group Hezbollah has seized control of west Beirut, an area heavily populated by Sunnis. Gun battles have left 11 people dead, and Hezbollah has forced a halt to pro-government newspapers and television stations.

On Thursday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah escalated rhetoric about the Lebanese government’s violent crackdown on his pro-Syrian renegade military group, calling Lebanon’s actions “tantamount to a declaration of war” during a video link press conference on the second day of sectarian rioting in the country between the  Sunni and Shia factions.

Armed skirmishes in protest of the government have ensued since Tuesday, when it began an investigation of Hezbollah’s telecoms network and replaced the head of airport security because of his suspected links to the militant Shia group, which is supported by Iran and Syria.

The demonstrations started as a wage strike. Hezbollah supporters then set roadblocks and lit tires on fire along roadways to Syria. Agence France-Presse writes, “Armed men, some hooded or masked, were seen in several mixed Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods of Beirut, where troops and riot police spread.”

Sunnis generally support Lebanon’s relatively new pro-Western government. Pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud resigned in November, leaving the country without an official head of state. Prime Minister Fouad Saniora has been functioning largely in that role.

Flights at Beirut’s airport were cancelled on Thursday until at least 4 pm local time, leaving some residents of the capital city to attempt to flee on foot, according to Al-Jazeera correspondents.

In light of the unrest, Egypt and Saudi Arabia renewed their support for the Saniora-led government. "The kingdom urges the groups behind the escalation to reconsider their position,” one official told Saudi Arabia’s state news service.

The sectarian violence invokes fears that fighting on the scale of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war is imminent.

Headline Link: Hezbollah makes gains in West Beirut

Video: ‘Pro-Hezbollah Strike Shuts Beirut’

Opinion & Analysis: Sectarian violence reminiscent of 15-year war

Historical Context: The Lebanese Civil War, 1975–90

Reference: Hezbollah

Related Topic: ‘Hezbollah Leader Killed in Car Bombing’

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