August 6/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 12,13-21. Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me."He replied to him, "Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?" Then he said to the crowd, "Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions." Then he told them a parable. "There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, 'What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?' And he said, 'This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, "Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!" But God said to him, 'You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?' Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God."

Peace as dangerous as war for Lebanon-Houston Chronicle. August 6/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for August 6/07
Moustaqbal Celebrates Victory in Beirut and Gemayel Predicted Winner in Metn-Naharnet
Syrian-Lebanese crossed Lebanon borders to vote for Aoun-Ya Libnan
Tensions high for Lebanon polls-BBC News
Lebanese Christians split in divisive

Tensions high for Lebanon polls-BBC News
Polls Open in Tense Lebanon Election-Forbes, NY 
Voters Flood Polling Stations in Feverish Quest to Elect Representative for Beirut and the Metn

Stakes raised in Lebanese elections
BBC News
Syrian-Lebanese crossed Lebanon borders to vote for Aoun-Ya Libnan
Lebanese vote in hotly contested by-election-Washington Post
Lebanon's Christians Divided Ahead of Metn Key elections
Lebanon holds by-elections amid tight security-ABC Online
Lebanon's Christians divided ahead of key vote to replace ...International Herald Tribune
Army Locked up in Fierce Battles Against Militants Amid Power Crisis
Nasrallah Slams Bush, Vows Not to Use Arms Against Lebanese Rivals
Power supply hit as fighting rages at Lebanon camp.ABC Online
Tensions high for Lebanon polls-BBC Bulgaria
Ehud Barak wants to invade Gaza Strip-Voltaire Network
Bush freezes of those undermining Lebanon's stability-Xinhua
Hezbollah leader slams US arms deals, says aim is to drown Mideast ...
International Herald Tribune

Voters Flood Polling Stations in Feverish Quest to Elect Representative for Beirut and the Metn
Thousands of voters flooded polling stations in Beirut and the Metn constituencies Sunday in the feverish quest to choose successors to anti-Syrian slain MPs Walid Eido and Pierre Gemayel. Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, who cast his vote early, urged citizens in Beirut to turn out at polling stations in large numbers to shoulder "your national responsibilities."
Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir in his Sunday sermon called on "our children to practice their legitimate right in electing who ever they deem fit to represent them in parliament. This is a national duty."Army units and police patrols threw a tight security dragnet around polling stations as voters waited in lines to cast their ballots in the tense competition between the March 14 anti-Syrian majority alliance and the Hizbullah-led opposition which is backed by Syria and Iran.
March 14 candidates are Mohammed al-Amin Itani, a Sunni Muslim, for the Beirut seat that went vacant by Eido's car bomb assassination last June 13, and Ex-President Amin Gemayel, a Maronite, for the Metn post that went vacant on Nov. 21 when his son, Pierre, was gunned down by unidentified assailants.
The opposition entered the competition against Gemayel in the Metn constituency with Camille Khoury representing the Free Patriotic Movement of outspoken leader Gen. Michel Aoun. The FPM campaign is backed by Syria's allies, namely Hizbullah, the Syrian Social National Party (SSNP) the Baath Party as well the Armenian Tashnag Party. Gemayel is backed by his own Phalange Party, the Lebanese Forces, the National Bloc Party, the National Liberal Party, al-Moustaqbal Movement and the other factions allied in the March 14 coalition.
Giant pictures of Gemayel and his slain son have been raised in villages and towns, particularly in their hometown, Bikfaya, where voters cast their ballots before heading to the cemetery to place white roses on Pierre Gemayel's tomb. "We visited Pierre to … promise him that his blood will not be in vain," Gemayel told reporters. "We love Lebanon and Pierre died for Lebanon and all of us have choice, no matter what the price is, but to serve Lebanon."
Aoun's movement garnered most of the Christian vote in 2005 legislative polls, but his popularity has waned since he entered into a shock alliance last year with the Iran- and Syria-backed Hizbullah. "Aoun wants to prove that he is the only representative of the Christians and therefore the candidate for the presidential elections," Joseph Abu Khalil, an aid to Gemayel, told Agence France Presse. But Antoine Nasrallah, spokesman for the FPM, said the vote will set the record straight as to which leader is more popular and where the presidential elections are headed.
"If Gemayel fails, he will lose any chance for the presidential elections... and if Gemayel wins, he will kill any ambition for Aoun to become president," Nasrallah said.
In Beirut, The People's Movement representative Ibrahim Halabi is competing Itani, who represents al-Moustaqbal Movement of MP Saad Hariri.
"We should honor the Martyr's blood," said Itani in reference to Eido. "Beirut voters should turn out heavily at polling stations." Army Units set up checkpoints and searched cars, motorists and pedestrians as voters headed to polling stations that opened at 7 a.m. following two weeks marked by tense campaigning.
Followers of the ruling majority distributed stickers calling for "truth" and "justice" in reference to demands for a trial of those behind a string of attacks against anti-Syrian figures in Lebanon since 2004 Outcome of the by-elections are considered a major indicator to trends that would be followed during the forthcoming presidential elections to choose a head of state replacing pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud whose extended term expires on Nov. 22.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 05 Aug 07, 08:11

Nasrallah Slams Bush, Vows Not to Use Arms Against Lebanese Rivals

Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah slammed U.S. President George Bush for meddling in Lebanon's affairs and vowed that his group would not use its arms against Lebanese foes. Nasrallah said Hizbullah was ready for a settlement of the political impasse that has paralyzed the country for more than nine months.
"We are ready for a settlement internally," said Nasrallah, who has been spearheading the Syrian and Iranian-backed opposition against Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government. Lebanon has been in deep political crisis since November when six pro-Syrian ministers, including five Shiites, stepped down from the government, demanding the formation of a cabinet with greater representation.
Nasrallah was speaking amid tensions in the country ahead of Sunday's crucial by-elections to replace two MPs killed earlier this year in attacks blamed by the ruling majority on Syria. Damascus, a main backer of the Hizbullah-led Lebanese opposition, has denied the accusations.
Reiterating a call for a national unity government to help resolve Lebanon's political deadlock, Nasrallah said "Lebanon can only overcome its crisis with cooperation and unity." "Lebanon cannot be divided, both practically and objectively. And we do not seek to control the government, or control the state," he said in a speech broadcast on huge screens before thousands of seated supporters in the eastern city of Baalbek late Friday.
"We are looking for a united and unified country which will protect Lebanon at a time ... the U.S. Administration is seeking to plant discords."
"Bush keeps on interfering in Lebanon's internal affairs … and no good intentions ever come out of the U.S. administration. The U.S. administration is seeking to plant discords," Nasrallah pointed out. "American policy in Lebanon is pushing a Lebanese party to monopolize powers ... and what is the result? More crises," he stressed.
Nasrallah said "our campaign is peaceful, civilian and civilized." "Weapons destroy the country and burn everybody. We have the power but using force inside the country is not in Lebanon's interest. These arms are for the defense of Lebanon, and not to destroy Lebanon."
"The arms of the resistance are not militia weapons" to be used against other Lebanese factions, said the leader of Hizbullah which fought a 34-day against the Israeli army in July and August 2006.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 04 Aug 07, 07:36

Lebanon's Christians Divided Ahead of Metn Key elections

Lebanon's security forces went on high alert Saturday in anticipation of violence ahead of a vote to replace two assassinated lawmakers that has deeply divided the nation's Christian community. Sunday's elections will produce successors for cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel, a Christian shot dead in November, and lawmaker Walid Eido, who died in a Beirut car bomb in June, both members of the parliamentary majority in support of the current government.
The elections could escalate the country's deepening political crisis since Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's Western-backed government called them without the required approval of President Emile Lahoud, who has blocked attempts to replace the lawmakers. Lahoud is allied with the Hezbollah-led opposition, as is Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who has said he will not recognize the results of the contests.
Mohammed al-Amin Itani is expected to easily win the contest for Eido's Beirut seat since the opposition did not officially sponsor a candidate. But the vote in the Christian stronghold of Metn for Gemayel's seat is expected to be bitterly contested. Amin Gemayel, president of Lebanon for much of the 1980s, has decided to compete for his son's seat on behalf of the ruling party. He faces off against Kamil Khoury, who is supported by Christian leader Michel Aoun, a former army commander and prime minister allied with the opposition. His party dominated the district in the 2005 legislative elections.
Tension has been high in Metn and several clashes have been reported between Aoun and Gemayel's supporters over the past week.
"The army command, Internal Security Forces and all security agencies will not allow any trouble, and the measures will be strict," Interior Minister Hassan Sabei said Saturday after deploying his forces in the two election districts. "This is a free democratic process." All nightclubs, bars and cafes and other places selling alcohol in the Metn region were closed over the weekend by order of Mount Lebanon Governor Antoine Suleiman, who also banned the use of fireworks starting Monday at noon when results will be released. The leader of the Maronite Christian church, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, and his bishops attempted to mediate between the various Christian factions to avoid the bruising election fight but ultimately failed.
Gemayel and his government allies have accused Damascus of being behind the assassination of his son Pierre and a number of other anti-Syrian politicians and public figures over the last two years, part of what they deem Syria's plan to end the majority's rule through attrition. With Eido's death, Saniora's margin in parliament was whittled down to only four seats. Syria has denied the allegations. "Metn will not become part of Damascus' countryside. Metn will not become a new field to erect tents for sit-ins," Gemayel said during a Friday rally, referring to an opposition sit-in since Dec. 1 in downtown Beirut outside Saniora's office.
The Shiite Hezbollah party, together with its Christian ally Aoun, is trying to force Saniora to form a national unity government that would give them veto power.
Aoun has said the Metn elections are "to liberate the country from political feudalism, sectarian intolerance and political bribery," a reference to the Gemayel family's role in Lebanese politics since the 1930s.The vote is the latest episode in Lebanon's worst political crisis since the country's 1975-1990 civil war. The standoff between Saniora and the opposition threatens to tear the country apart and could lead to the formation of rival governments if parliament fails to elect a new president before the November 23 deadline for Lahoud to step down.
As Maronite Christians, both Gemayel and Aoun are eligible to run for the position, with the latter already having declared his candidacy.(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 04 Aug 07, 19:25

Army Locked up in Fierce Battles Against Militants Amid Power Crisis

Lebanese artillery blasted Fatah al-Islam positions inside Nahr al-bared Palestinian refugee camp on Saturday as ongoing fighting prevented repair teams from reaching a nearby power plant knocked out by Katyusha rocket fire. A woman in the village of Deir Ammar where the power station is located, four kilometers from the Nahr al-Bared camp, was wounded by another rocket fired by the militants on Saturday, police said.
Heavy shelling ignited fires within Nahr al-Bared, north of Tripoli, after earlier exchanges of small arms fire, an Agence France Presse correspondent said.
An army spokesman said troops were advancing on the positions of the Fatah al-Islam fighters, who have been holed up in Nahr al-Bared for more than 11 weeks.
"The army continued its advance inside the camp and seized three buildings and a tunnel dug by Fatah al-Islam," he said. The state-run National News Agency reported that Lebanese troops killed at least four al-Qaida-inspired militants. The NNA's report, which could not be independently confirmed, said the four Fatah Islam fighters died Friday after they attacked an army position inside the Nahr el-Bared camp, located near the northern port city of Tripoli.
Also, the military announced Friday that three Lebanese soldiers were killed in the previous day's fighting in the camp, where Fatah Islam militants have been entrenched for over two months. Their deaths raised to nearly 131 the number of troops killed since fighting erupted May 20.
Meanwhile, electricity authorities said repair teams had been unable to reach the power plant at Deir Ammar, closed since Thursday after being struck by Katyusha rockets fired by the militants, "for security reasons." "Repair teams fled on Friday after another rocket hit the fence of the power station," Deir Ammar municipality chief administrator Ahmad Eid told AFP.
Loss of production at the 400-megawatt facility, one of the main power stations in northern Lebanon, has exacerbated shortages in the country, where six-hour power cuts are being experienced everywhere except in Beirut's administrative zone. Production at Deir Ammar had already been reduced because the fighting at Nahr al-Bared has prevented ships from delivering oil to the facility. Most of the camp's 30,000 residents have fled since the May 20 eruption of the fighting.
The only civilians remaining are around 60 women and children related to the Fatah al-Islam fighters. The army has accused the Islamists of using them as human shields, but other sources have said they are staying willingly.(AP-AFP-Naharnet)(AFP photo shows black smoke billows as Lebanese flags flutter atop wrecked buildings at the besieged Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared.) Beirut, 04 Aug 07, 18:44

Stakes raised in Lebanese elections

By Christian Fraser -BBC News, Beirut
In the mountains above the Lebanese capital, Beirut, is the Christian heartland of Metn, where this weekend the stage is set for one of two crucial by-elections.
The local residents are voting to replace the MP Pierre Gemayel, a staunch critic of Syria, who was assassinated in November.
Standing to fill the vacant seat is his father, Amin Gemayel, leader of the right-wing Maronite Christian party, the Phalange. The former president and his allies accuse Syria of orchestrating the killing of his son. "This election is very important," says Mr Gemayel. "Lebanon is at a crossroad. The people have to make a choice whether they want an independent and democratic Lebanon, or whether they want to vote for the opposition and a country ruled by Syria."
Christian divisions
For as long as anyone can remember in Metn, the Gemayel family and the Phalange have claimed the loyalty of the Christian community.
Founded by Mr Gemayel's father, Pierre, in 1936, the party was one of the main players in the bloody civil war that gripped Lebanon through the 1970s and 1980s.
The splits worry me - only our unity can preserve the country and restore a major role for the Christians in Lebanon But the family's rule is now hotly contested and the divisions which are emerging between the different Christian factions are dangerous. "The splits worry me," says Mr Gemayel. "Only our unity can preserve the country and restore a major role for the Christians in Lebanon." "The divisions are dangerous for the future - and they are threatening too!" Many say they will vote for the Gemayel family in sympathy, but there is sizeable support for the rival candidate, Camille Khoury. Mr Khoury has been put forward by the other main Maronite Christian leader, Michel Aoun of the Free Patriotic Movement (FMP). A lifelong critic of Syrian influence in Lebanon, the former army chief surprised many in 2006 when he made an alliance with Hezbollah, the Shia Muslim group which is backed by Damascus. High stakes
Mr Aoun is keen to become the next president, and Hezbollah are thought to have pledged their support. "In the past, our party and our leader, General Aoun, have been vocal opponents of Syria's influence in Lebanon," Mr Khoury says. "In fact, I am one of the people who protested - openly!"
Michel Aoun returned to Lebanon in 2005 after 14 years in exile
"I've stood in front of Syrian tanks waving my Lebanese flag - and remember we were the only Christian party that was not in power when the Syrians were here!"
Paul Salem of the Carnegie Middle East Centre says that while Mr Aoun might not be standing this weekend, this is a crucial election for him.
"This by-election is essentially a contest between the two major leaders within the Christian community," he says, "and to some degree will decide the issue as to who represents more strongly the Christian community." Mr Salem believes victory is crucial for Mr Aoun. "If he loses, he can no longer claim within the opposition that he can bring the Christians along with him," he says. "It would put a major dent in his chances of becoming president."
That undoubtedly raises tensions and in the past week the anger has spilled out onto the streets, with the army called in to separate the two sets of rival supporters.
On Friday, Mr Aoun made a speech behind bullet proof glass. His candidate would only be interviewed by the BBC within the confines of his own office.
Fleeing the country
There are great fears the violence is set to escalate. "The Christians are weakening each other," says Riyadh Kharraj, a Maronite who witnessed a clash between Aoun and Gemayel supporters earlier in the week. Hezbollah is not contesting the seats to spare sectarian tensions "There is tension and there will be more if it is not resolved." the 54-year-old shopkeeper and Aoun supporter says. In the other by-election, held in a mainly Muslim district of West Beirut, people are voting to replace Walid Eido, a Sunni Muslim anti-Syrian MP killed in a car bomb attack in June. Hezbollah has decided not to contest the seat.
"These by-elections might have some influence on the race for the presidency," says Mr Salem. "But in the bigger picture, they are not of major significance."
"At the moment, Lebanon is stuck between the internal divisions within parliament and the pressures that come from the region." "On one side are Syria and Iran - on the other the United States and Saudi Arabia. It is all part of the same regional tension that we see in Iraq, we have seen in Palestine."
For the past eight months Hezbollah supporters have been camped outside the Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's office refusing to leave until they get a new government of national unity. Parliamentary business has been paralysed since November - many of the anti-Syrian MPs have now left the country in fear of their lives.
It is a crisis that splits Lebanon right down the middle, and the longer it continues the more dangerous all these splits will become.

Syrian-Lebanese crossed Lebanon borders to vote for Aoun
Sunday, 5 August, 2007
Beirut- The naturalized Lebanese of Syrian descent streamed across the Masnaa border crossing to vote in the by-elections
When asked by a reporter for whom did they want to vote : They said for Nasrallah ( Hezboollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah ) . But when told by the reporter Nasrallah was not running , they responded by saying they will cast their votes for Aoun. Aoun’s candidate is Camille Khoury in the Metn region. Aoun is allied with the pro-Syrian Hezbollah militants. Tens of thousands of Syrians were naturalized by Michel Murr when he was the minister of internal affairs during the Syrian occupation. All of the naturalized Syrians were allocated to the Metn region of Michel Murr. Murr is supporting Aoun's candidate in the by-elections

By-elections: Aoun supporters attack opponents wounding 3

Sunday, 5 August, 2007 @ 1:22 PM
Bikfaya - Free Patriotic Movement activists attacked political opponents in the Metn region of Mount Lebanon, wounding three people in fist fights, according to police reports. The 3 victims were identified by the police as : Richard Gemayel, Camille Dory Chamoun ( grandson of former president Camille Chamoun) and Jihad Abdul Masih. This was a rare incident as the elections have been going smoothly and very few incidents took place today.

Lebanon's by-election to replace 2 murdered anti-Syrian MPs
Sunday, 5 August, 2007 @ 8:18 AM
Beirut - Lebanon's rival political factions face off on Sunday in disputed elections to replace two murdered MPs in a showdown seen as a test for the country's divided Christian parties ahead of presidential polls. The parliamentary by-elections are being held to replace two anti-Syrian lawmakers killed this year in attacks blamed by the Western-backed majority on former powerbroker Damascus, which supports the Hezbollah-led opposition.
Campaigning ahead of the polls has raised tensions in Lebanon which remains deeply divided since last November's resignation of six pro-Syrian cabinet ministers from the opposition paralysed government decision-making. The by-elections also come as a deadly military showdown between the army and Islamist extremists in the north of the country continues to rage after 11 weeks. The two murdered MPs were industry minister Pierre Gemayel, a Christian who was gunned down in a Beirut suburb on November 21 last year, and Sunni Muslim Walid Eido, who was killed in a car bombing in the capital on June 13.
Although the election to replace Eido in Beirut is virtually guaranteed to be won by the candidate of the ruling majority, it is the vote for Gemayel's seat in the Metn region, a Christian stronghold northeast of Beirut, that has the country in suspense. Former president Amin Gemayel is vying to replace his son Pierre, but the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) of opposition leader Michel Aoun, also a Christian, is fighting the seat with Camille Khoury, a doctor, as its candidate.
A war of words between Gemayel and Aoun has prompted influential Maronite Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir to warn that "any house which becomes divided will crumble."
Observers say that the election outcome will be an indicator as to which way the Christian camp is leaning ahead of presidential elections to replace pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud by a November 25 deadline. In line with Lebanon's confessional political system, parliament elects the president, traditionally a Maronite Christian, while the prime minister is a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament a Shiite Muslim. "Since the presidency is reserved for Christians in Lebanon, the idea is that the president should be someone who enjoys mass support among Christians," Faysal Itany, research assistant at Carnegie Middle East Centre, told AFP.
"And inside the Metn this weekend the contest will be between the two major Christian camps, both of which claim to enjoy the majority of support from the Christian constituency."
Aoun's movement garnered most of the Christian vote in 2005 legislative polls, but his popularity has waned since he entered into a shock alliance last year with the Iran- and Syria-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah. Many blame this alliance for the problems of Lebanon and accuse Aoun of providing Christian cover to legitimize Hezbollah hijacking of the country and its destruction. Gemayel calls the alliance " alliance against nature"
"Aoun wants to prove that he is the only representative of the Christians and therefore the candidate for the presidential elections," Joseph Abu Khalil, an aid to Gemayel said But Antoine Nasrallah, spokesman for the FPM, said the vote will set the record straight as to which leader is more popular and where the presidential elections are headed. "If Gemayel fails, he will lose any chance for the presidential elections... and if Gemayel wins, he will kill any ambition for Aoun to become president," Nasrallah said. Whatever the outcome of Sunday's two by-elections, parliament's challenge will still be to elect a new president to succeed Lahoud.
While the majority controls enough seats to elect a president, it still needs the opposition to take part for the two-thirds quorum which parliament traditionally needs to convene. Meanwhile Lahoud has refused to counter-sign the government decree for the by-elections on the grounds that the cabinet of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora was "illegitimate" since the resignation of the pro-Syrian ministers.
Picture: The two assassinated Lebanese anti-Syrian MPs, Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel (R) and MP Walid Eido (L). Rival Lebanese factions face off today in disputed by-elections to replace the two slain MPs

Peace as dangerous as war for Lebanon
Patrols, bomb fears, foreign presence worsen the instability of the nation

BEIRUT, LEBANON — The Lebanese soldiers passed cautiously along the sidewalk, weapons held ready as they spread out in two long columns along the quiet, tree-lined streets of the middle-class neighborhood of Ashrafiye.
Around the corner, a glass door opened into Sushi Bar, a trendy, upscale restaurant that caters to this bit of Lebanon — the alcohol-drinking, cigar-smoking, valet-dependent Lebanon. "Do you have a reservation?" the hostess asked, offering not a hint of irony as the army patrolled outside along largely empty streets.
It is hard to know whether the hostess was engaging in a bit of wishful thinking — most of the tables were empty — or if her question was part of a broader struggle to try to hold on to some semblance of a normal life.
Short on optimism
Lebanese are being squeezed, no longer just by fear of bombs, but by the realities of checkpoints and roving patrols of soldiers. At nearly every step, civilian life intersects with the martial: Brides must pass through metal detectors on the way to their weddings at hotels; parking attendants always search car trunks for bombs; mall security guards examine the contents of pocketbooks.
"It seems everything is getting worse, because we have so many problems now," said Ahmed Fatfat, a Cabinet minister who has lived in his government offices for the past nine months because he — like the prime minister — has been afraid he will be killed if he stays at home.
After the war between Hezbollah and Israel a year ago, U.N. officials marveled at how quickly this city, and the country, got back up and running.
But optimism is in short supply as Lebanon grapples with a chronic political crisis, the rise of al-Qaida-style militancy and a seemingly endless stream of bombings and assassinations. The sectarian and political tensions that divide, and define, Lebanon are more evident in daily life — as is the presence of foreign powers playing their hands. "Nations don't behave this way," said Timur Goksel, the former spokesman for the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL. "It's groups of people who share the same land."
Foreign powers have long pursued their national interests on Lebanese soil. But any past efforts to conceal those machinations have evaporated.
The old and new airport roads, for example, are lined with yellow banners boasting of Iran's help with reconstruction. At a traffic circle in Ghobeiry, just outside of Beirut, there is a small new public garden and three public toilets. A sign says it was all built by the "Iranian committee" in just 40 days.
The small Persian Gulf country of Qatar seems to be everywhere, from the north to the south, doling out cash for rebuilding and for health services. For some, the signs of foreign involvement simply add to the anxiety.
"We in this country are waiting to see the outcome of the American-Iranian game," said Fadi Abboud, head of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists. "At the moment, the Lebanese feel we are all hostages to international politics."
Under observation
A north-to-south tour illustrates how few free spaces the Lebanese can find, now, to breathe.
"Your sweet blood protects the country," reads a banner strung over the highway into Menieh, just north of Tripoli. The sign refers to the soldiers who were killed fighting Islamic militants in the Palestinian refugee camp Nahr al Bared.
The fighting also has revealed a level of potentially destabilizing hostility between the Lebanese and the Palestinians who have lived here — as outsiders — for generations. When thousands of Palestinians tried to march back to their abandoned camp, the army opened fire — and people from the neighborhood attacked the Palestinians.
Residents of the south also have seen their world circumscribed by anger and fear. Thanks to money from Qatar, the village of Aynata in southern Lebanon has rebuilt about 60 percent of the homes that had been destroyed by Israeli bombs, people there said.
But these don't feel like happy times in Aynata. Nahed Jaafar runs a small food store and gas station on a main road in town. She cheerfully greeted visitors on a recent day, refusing to take money for a Coke and some gum, and pulling out plastic chairs for her guests to sit and talk.
Instantly, however, a dirt bike roared up and the driver, his face hidden beneath a helmet, revved his engine and spun doughnuts in the dirt right in front of the store. The driver stopped and pulled off his helmet to reveal a boyish face with a scar beneath his right eye.
He said to the visitors: "I am Hezbollah. You are not allowed to be here. You are not allowed to talk to people. You are a foreign terrorist. This is Hezbollah area. Maybe you are working against Hezbollah."
No help for some
The urban landscape of the south falls into three categories: rubble, houses of cinder block in the early stages of repair, and new homes with stone facades and red tile roofs. The village of Bint Jbail is still mostly rubble — the victim, residents said, of a dispute over how to proceed with rebuilding.
Amid the rubble, Muhammad Hassan Bazzi, 70, his wife, Amina, and his brother Muhammad Najib Bazzi, 67, sat in the shade enjoying the afternoon breeze while sipping sweet tea from small glasses. "We ask when we will get help," said Muhammad Hassan Bazzi. "They say be patient. But what is happening? We don't know."
"I had everything," said Amina Bazzi. "Now I want a refrigerator, a washing machine, a TV." Tears came to her eyes.
Soon a shiny black Infiniti emerged along a dirt path cutting through the rubble. Muhammad Najib Bazzi saw the car and without hesitation said, "The conversation is over."The driver was with Hezbollah. He wanted to know who they were talking to — and what they were saying.