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Hizballah Protests As Missiles Trucked In

As Hizballah has pitched tent in Beirut, ensuring that the massive protests continue to disrupt the Lebanese political process and institutions. A one Hizballah protester was killed after gunfire erupted when the Shi’a demonstrators took their discontent down the streets of a Sunni neighborhood in Beirut.

With the mass protest outside his offices demanding his resignation, Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has vowed to remain in office throughout the protests. Lebanon’s prime minister criticized the Hizballah protests saying, “A solution to any problem does not come through the street because this means might trigger a counter-means and therefore, we will not reach any result.”

Abu Kais provides translation of a report in the pro-government Al-Mustaqbal newspaper that a man who had shouted insulting comments about Hizballah leader Hassan Nassrallah, prompting a chase through the streets by 300 Hizballah supporters, was captured by the Lebanese army and found to be “a Syrian citizen by the name of Hamzah Mohamad Sadeq Ismail.” The paper reported that the incident was an attempt by Syrian intelligence to create violent clashes between the Shi’a Hizballah and Beirut Sunnis.

It is not beyond comprehension or logic to suspect Syrian instigation in Beirut, such as unconfirmed reports that three Syrians were arrested for throwing rocks onto Hizballah and Amal protesters from the roof of a Beirut building. But Syria is also preparing Hizballah for a larger engagement with Israel. The Jerusalem Post reports that Syria continues smuggling long-range missiles as well as short and medium range rockets to Hizballah in the unguarded dark of night. Such activities are invited and to be expected when UNIFIL troops do not conduct night operations. Along with new stores of small arms, explosives and fresh Russian-made anti-tank rocket stores, Iran and Syria are renewing Hizballah’s capabilities to engage Israel.

Though it appears unlikely that the current street protests will net Hizballah a coup by themselves, Hizballah – by Iranian and Syrian direction – may once again resort to the unifying effect of an Israeli conflict to further its political ambition within Lebanon. The affects of the Hizballah protests are quite localized to certain parts of Beirut, and much to the chagrin of the Islamist terrorist group, a marathon was run in the streets of Beirut over the weekend, protest or none. But there will be no marathons during a Hizballah war with Israel.

Across the sectarian religious spectrum in Lebanon, Israel is seen as the biggest threat to Lebanon (82%), with the United States closely behind (60%), according to a Brookings Institute poll taken in Lebanon in mid-November. While Christian and Druze respondents named Syria as the #2 threat, they followed the Lebanese Shi’a and Sunni in also naming Israel as the top threat.

With Israel serving as such a unifying factor among Lebanese, if the Hizballah stores are as replenished as has been reported (above the levels before the summer war with Israel) and the street protests stall, Hizballah may provoke an Israeli strike again in order to capitalize on the angst toward Jewish state. Many view recent events and conclude that Hizballah and Hamas are preparing for a coordinated two-front attack on Israel, an attack that may come sooner rather than later.