First Published: 2005-12-30

Lebanons fragile coalition close to collapse

Rocket attack on Israel shakes Lebanons ruling coalition as Hezbollah and Amal are thinking of leaving it.


Middle East Online

By Salim Yassine - BEIRUT

Tough time

A rocket attack on Israel from southern Lebanon, claimed by Al-Qaeda but widely blamed on Shiite fundamentalist movement Hezbollah, has shunted Lebanon's ruling coalition closer to possible collapse.

The fragile alliance of anti-Syrian politicians and a pro-Damascus Shiite coalition has been shaken by Wednesday's rocket attack to which Israel responded with an air strike on a Palestinian militia base near Beirut.

While Al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed the attack in an unverifiable statement, Israel and the United States both insist it could not have taken place without the knowledge of Hezbollah, which has been boycotting the government amid calls for the disarming of its military wing.

Five ministers from pro-Syrian Hezbollah and fellow Shiite bloc Amal have refused to take part in cabinet meetings since December 12 in protest at calls for an international probe into a wave of attacks against Damascus critics.

A source close to Prime Minister Fuad Siniora said that talks aimed at ending the crisis had stumbled over the application of last year's UN Security Council Resolution 1559 calling for the disarming of all militias in Lebanon.

Hezbollah militants were instrumental in bringing about the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon in 2000 and the group insists its forces must remain there to prevent a new Israeli occupation.

An Arab diplomatic source said Hezbollah and Amal were thinking of leaving once and for all the government it formed along with Christians, Sunni Muslims and Druze representing Lebanon's fractious ethnic patchwork.

Anti-Syrian Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said Damascus was trying to implicate Al-Qaeda in southern Lebanon to try to show that the area had become a "terrorist base" since Syrian troops quit in April after a 30-year presence.

The leader of Hezbollah's bloc in parliament, Mohammed Raad, said Siniora's refusal to sign a new agreement covering the presence of militias in the country was "unacceptable".

"We are heading for a serious crisis and difficult decisions," he warned.

Siniora himself dismissed the Al-Qaeda claim for the rocket attacks on Israel as "a sort of fabrication and joke", before implying the political crisis could be defused.

"We are condemned to agree with each other ... there will be no resignation, disagreement is forbidden," he told journalists following talks with parliament speaker and Amal chief Nabih Berri.

Shiite MP Bassem Sabeh, part of the anti-Syrian majority, said however that the rocket attacks were aimed at discrediting Hezbollah by showing it did not actually control the south of the country.

Amid increasing international pressure, veteran Israeli politician Shimon Peres described Hezbollah as a "cancer" that had "pervaded and compromised all ranks of Lebanese government".

"Hezbollah holds back Lebanon," said the former prime minister. "It is a state within a state, an army within an army. It is like a cancer. Nobody wants it."


Rebels evacuate Syria's Eastern Ghouta

Sarkozy says life ‘living hell’ since corruption allegations

Turkey’s largest media group to be sold to Erdogan ally

Hezbollah leader says debt threatens Lebanon disaster

Exiled Syrian doctors treat refugees in Turkey

In world first, flight to Israel crosses Saudi airspace

Saudi, US must pursue 'urgent efforts' for Yemen peace: Mattis

US, Jordan launch new counterterrorism training centre

Two Hamas security force members killed in raid on bomb suspect

Turkey gives watchdog power to block internet broadcasts

EU leaders to condemn Turkey’s ‘illegal’ actions in Mediterranean

Ahed Tamimi reaches plea deal for eight months in jail

UN launching final push to salvage Libya political agreement

Conditions for displaced from Syria's Ghouta 'tragic': UN

Sisi urges Egyptians to vote, denies excluding rivals

Rights Watch says Libya not ready for elections

Saudis revamp school curriculum to combat Muslim Brotherhood

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump

Syria workers say French firm abandoned them to jihadists

Grim Nowruz for Kurds fleeing Afrin

Sarkozy back in custody for second day of questioning

'Saudization' taking its toll on salesmen

Syrian rebels reach evacuation deal in Eastern Ghouta town

Israel confirms it hit suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007

UN says Turkey security measures 'curtail human rights'

Netanyahu says African migrants threaten Jewish majority

US Senate votes on involvement in Yemen war as Saudi prince visits

What a ‘limited strike’ against Syria’s Assad might mean

Erdogan tells US to stop ‘deceiving’, start helping on Syria

IS controls Damascus district in surprise attack

French ex-president held over Libya financing allegations

NGO says Israeli army violating Palestinian minors’ rights

Human rights chief slams Security Council for inaction on Syria

US warns Turkey over civilians caught in Syria assault

Saudi crown prince keen to cement ties with US

Abbas calls US ambassador to Israel 'son of a dog'

Erdogan vows to expand Syria op to other Kurdish-held areas

Kurdish envoy accuses foreign powers of ignoring Turkish war crimes

Morocco authorities vow to close Jerada's abandoned mines

Israeli soldier sees manslaughter sentence slashed

Turkey insists no plans to remain in Afrin

Cairo voters show unwavering support for native son Sisi

Forum in Jordan explores new teaching techniques

Gaza Strip woes receive renewed attention but no fix is expected

Kurds, Syrian opposition condemn Afrin looting