Hizbollah fighters impose control on Beirut

Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hizbollah took control of the Muslim part of Beirut today, tightening its grip on the city in a major blow to the US-backed government.





Security sources said at least 11 people had been killed and 30 wounded in three days of battles between pro-government gunmen and fighters loyal to Hizbollah, a Shi'ite political movement with a powerful guerrilla army.



The fighting, the worst internal strife since the 1975-90 civil war, was triggered this week after the government took decisions targeting Hizbollah's military communications network. The group said the government had declared war.



In scenes reminiscent of the darkest days of the civil war, young men armed with assault rifles roamed the streets amid smashed cars and smouldering buildings.



The sound of exploding grenades and automatic gunfire echoed across a city still rebuilding from the 1975-90 conflict.



The dead included a woman and her 30-year-old son, who were killed when trying to flee Ras al-Nabae - a mixed Sunni-Shi'ite Beirut district and scene of some of the heaviest clashes.



"They were trying to flee to the mountains. Instead ... they reached the hospital, dead," said a relative of the victims, who declined to give her name because of security fears.



"It was terrifying during the night. We couldn't even move about in the house," said another woman - a resident of Ras al-Nabae who had fled the area at first light with her children. "We spent the night in the corridor."



Saudi Arabia, a strong backer of the governing coalition, called for an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers over the crisis, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television reported.



A pro-government leader called for dialogue.



"The party, regardless of its military strength, cannot annul the other," Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Druze minority, told LBC television station from his home in Beirut. "Dialogue alone brings results. Running away from dialogue is not useful."



Hizbollah gunmen took control of media outlets owned by governing coalition leader Saad al-Hariri, Lebanon's strongest Sunni politician. Hariri's television and radio stations went off the air.



Hezbollah, a Shi'ite group also backed by Syria, had been steadily seizing offices of pro-government factions in the predominantly Muslim western half of the city.



Backed by the Shi'ite Amal group, Hezbollah fighters have been handing control of the offices to the army - which is trying to play a neutral role in the crisis.







A security source said Hizbollah and its allies were in control all of the mainly Muslim half of Beirut after pro-government gunmen laid down their weapons in their last bastion.



The gunmen in Tarek al-Jadeedi, a Sunni area whose residents are loyal to Hariri, had been in contact with Hezbollah to surrender, handing their posts to the Lebanese army.



"It certainly leaves the government weaker and the Future movement weaker," said Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut.



"Hizbollah is dominating most of west Beirut."

Suggested Topics
Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Senior SAP MM Consultant, £50,000 - £60,000, Birmingham

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP MM C...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried