Fighting in Bekaa Valley—despite Lebanon ceasefire

Helicopter-borne Israeli commandos raided a supposed Hezbollah stronhold in the Bekaa Valley Aug. 20 in what Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora called a “naked violation” of the UN-backed truce. Three Hezbollah guerrillas were reportedly killed in a dawn firefight with the Israeli commandos. The Israeli army said it had suffered one dead and two wounded. Israel said the operation aimed to disrupt weapons supplies to Hezbollah from Syria and Iran. Both countries deny arming the group. (Taipei Times, Aug. 20)

Defense Minister Amir Peretz said that the Israel Defense Forces’s commando operation, near the central Bekaa town of Baalbeck, did not violate the ceasefire agreement and that “the raid was necessary and was designed to prevent the rearmament of Hezballah.” Officials in the Prime Minister’s office have rejected the Lebanese government’s claim that the raid constitutes a violation of the agreement. The officials said that the action was defensive and the real ceasefire violation was the Lebanese government’s failure to stop the arms shipment. “The IDF has to do it because the Lebanese are not,” the officials said. (Israel Today, Aug. 20)

The Bekaa raid came as Lebanese forces assumed positions in the south of the country to halt potential arms shipments to Hezbollah, and 50 French military engineers disembarked at a base in Naqoura in the south, the first foreign reinforcements since the war. Hezbollah is meanwhile distributing cash to residents who lost their houses during Israel’s month-long offensive. Families whose homes were destroyed in Beirut’s southern suburbs receive US$12,000 from Hezbollah officials operating out of a local school. (Taipei Times, Aug. 20)

During the 33-day war, Israeli air raids had damaged the Roman temple complex in Baalbek. A bombing raids that destroyed two buildings in the town square also cracked the facade of the Temple of Bacchus, built cerca 150 CE. (Bloomberg, Aug. 15)

See our last post on the Lebanon crisis.