Fighting has subsided across parts of Lebanon tonight and the army is said to be “taking control” of west Beirut. But even if civil war has not fully materialized, many are saying that it has only been postponed. For one, the army has not reclaimed the streets but merely had the streets handed over to them by the opposition–which does not say much in the way of state authority. And even if the two sides are sincere in their calls for dialogue, they’ve managed to make stinging attacks on one another in the process. The situation remains unpredictable and it’s difficult to see the wounds healing any time soon, particularly with the vilification campaigns that have been going on in the media.

The screen shot above is taken from Hezbollah’s Al Manar. As explosions rock the city, the station’s video editors seem to have been busy at work on a series of propaganda clips that bring the demonization of pro-Western politicians to new heights. Pictured above is Druze leader Walid Jumblat (left) meeting with US Assitant Secretary of State David Welch (center). The video is slowed down for effect and framed by a shadowy dark filter. Others in the series include Prime Minister Fouad Siniora meeting with Condoleezza Rice and an Israeli manufactured hand grenade allegedly found among the weapons of pro-government militants.

Of course pro-Hezbollah leaders like Nabih Berri have had their share of photo opportunities with the Americans, but the last image implies a far more sinister allegation. The thought that Israel is sending weapons to Lebanese parties, whether authenticated or not, could signal an inevitable confrontation, a “new dimension” to the power struggle, as Nasrallah has warned.

It is not clear how or when the pro-Western parties will react to the charges. On a media level, their assets have been frozen, for now. But on Saturday, in a show of defiance, a large crowd of journalists gathered outside the offices of pro-government Future Television, which was been forced off the air during the siege of the city by opposition militants. Station employees eventually entered the newsroom and made statements to the press but were not allowed to go back to work.

Popular talk show host Zaven Kouyoumdjian, a soft-spoken ‘Dr. Phil’ of sorts, made a telling statement to one media outlet on the scene.

“I’ve never been sectarian,” he told local channel New TV. “But I’ve realized that in Lebanon, to be strong, you need to be sectarian,” he said. “Today, I am sectarian.”

  1. The Verdun Street Report

    Police took over from militants manning Verdun street today, but roadblocks remained in place. A plane could be seen landing at BIA despite reports that the airport would not open. Amal flags have been planted on various streetposts and other objects, yet residential balconies continue to fly the Lebanese flag.

    This comes after street fighting spread into Verdun-Sakiet El Janzir three days ago when militants where seen walking around with automatic weapons and bazookas raised, as cars parked in back streets and unloaded automatic rifles from their trunks to give to fellow militants. This was just after Hassan Nasrallah’s speech. All hell broke loose after that… We hid in the hallways all night.

    Funniliy the next day, all that was damaged was a gas station(!)

    Militans were in Verdun Street patrolling the next morning with some contiued sporadig shooting now and then later that day.

    The third day (Sat) Saw Calm. Yet militants were seen resting just outside the two main shopping malls in Verdun, 730 & 732. Starbucks was closed, but Amore was open. We sat there, had some water, and jetted back home…

    All we need now are for the roads to open again, as well as the port and airport to formally resume operation, and we’ll feel safe again.

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