Anxiety weighs down Beirut

Israeli attacks and blockades have prompted many people in Beirut to stay away from work to join long queues at petrol stations and supermarkets.

    Lebanese are stocking up on supplies

    After the heaviest bombardments for 10 years, the general mood in the Lebanese capital is one of anxiety.

    One Beirut resident, Elie Fawaz, said: "The streets of central Beirut are empty when you compare it with a normal day, people are worried about what will happen next. We are under seige quite literally.

    "All ports are blocked and people are depressed about what is happening. We don't know what will happen. Everyone is waiting now."

    The government has ordered the evacuation of the southern suburbs of Beirut, where Hezbollah is considered to be most active among the largely poor Shia. This came after an Israeli missile hit Hezbollah's Al-Manar television station.

    One resident of the southern suburbs, Hasan Jabali, said: "I am leaving my house. I have packed up some things and will drive to a friend's house and stay there until we know what will happen. I'm expecting to stay there for at least two weeks."

    Fragile peace

    The latest strikes against Lebanon have heightened the internal power struggle within the country's leadership while putting pressure on the government to unite.

    "We can already see supporters of Hezbollah out on the streets. The Lebanese are still sectarian, but this could drive the very fragile unity between groups further apart"

    Hasan Jabali,

    Beirut resident

    Many analysts say that the Lebanese leadership has been fragile since the parliamentary election in June last year in which Hariri-Jumblatt, the anti-Syrian alliance, won 72 seats out of 128. Michel Aoun and his allies took 21, and the Shia parties, Hezbollah and Amal, won 35.

    One analyst in Beirut said: "With Hezbollah now active in the political arena, it has given Israel a legitimate reason to attack state assets such as the airport, and we are expecting power plants and other state assets to be hit next."

    The Lebanese people have many questions.

    Fawaz said: "We are asking ourselves what will this mean for Lebanon? What do we have to gain? Does the balance of fear still exist in Lebanon, something that Hezbollah derives its power from, and the cost to Lebanon as a country."

    The price of peace

    A government spokesman issued a statement on Friday saying: "This latest strike has cost the Lebanese economy $4.3 million in tourism alone."

    Many suspect that other things will also suffer as a result of the tensions.

    Jabali said: "We can already see supporters of Hezbollah out on the streets. The Lebanese are still sectarian, but this could drive the very fragile unity between groups further apart.

    "This is a complete switch from where we were headed. We are already seeing a divide between groups, even between Muslim groups, who try to differentiate themsleves from one another.

    "There are rumours going around that Israel have done this to provoke the Lebanese army to rally against Hezbollah, but there is nothing for us to do now but support those who defend us."

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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