Violence spirals in Lebanon endgame

'Israel is much more interested in achieving peace than it is in the future of Lebanon'


Marjayoun, Lebanon

Ali al-Assad, a leader of the Hizbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon, was killed near Tyre yesterday when a bomb hidden in his car, presumably by Israeli agents, exploded as he started

on the vehicle. At about the same time, on a road 15 miles away inside the Israeli-occupied zone, a bomb blew up beside a Jeep of the "South Lebanon Army'' (SLA), Israel's local militia, badly wounding one of the militiamen.

In his headquarters in an old French fort at Marjayoun, Brigadier-General Giora Inbar, Israeli commander in the nine-mile-wide swath of Lebanon occupied by Israel as a ''security zone'', points to a chart showing the steadily mounting number of Hizbollah attacks. There were 201 incidents in 1992, rising to 385 in 1994. The number is expected to exceed 500 this year.

It is a war, but with rules, notably the 1993 understanding with Syria - acting on behalf of Hizbollah - that Israel will not shell or bomb civilians north of its zone if Hizbollah does not fire rockets into Israel. This unofficial truce is now coming under strain as Israel tries to kill Hizbollah fighters like Assad outside the occupation zone.

Peace talks between Israel and Syria have also hit the morale of the 2,600-strong SLA, which Israel has recruited. Its commander, General Antoine Lahad, sounding as if he believed the political end-game in south Lebanon will inevitably mean his demise as a local warlord, said: "Israel is much more interested in peace than it is in the future of Lebanon." He thought a US-brokered Syrian-Israeli peace treaty inevitable and "the Americans do not care very much about the Syrian presence in Lebanon''.

General Inbar plays down the scale of the fighting. He says it is frequently with long-range weapons like mortars or heavy machine-guns. But the skirmishes have the ability to escalate into incidents which affect negotiations between Jerusalem and Damascus. Last week, for instance, an SLA mortar bomb killed a Lebanese woman in the village of Shaqrah, leading Hizbollah to fire Katyusha rockets into northern Galilee, killing a French cook at a resort.

Regretting that such things do occur, General Lahad admits: "It may happen there is a small mistake in calculations and a shell goes astray, as happened lately." The Israeli commander says the fighting started at Shaqrah because Hizbollah positions in the outskirts of the village opened fire on an SLA post at nearby Houle in the Israeli-zone, just as one unit was being relieved by another.

Denying he was told by the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, not to provoke Hizbollah, General Inbar was clearly keen to avoid retaliation. SLA militiamen, paid $350 (pounds 225) to $550 a month by Israel, can have their pay docked for firing at the wrong target. Hizbollah, for its part, says its policy of revenge attacks on Galilee works and has forced Israel to take care about hitting civilian targets.

It is not as if Israeli military casualties are severe, with seven dead and 51 wounded this year. But there is little enthusiasm in Israel for a war which seems endless.

But the 160,000 Lebanese in the Israeli-run enclave believe that the war may indeed be coming to an end. David Levi, an Israeli born in Sidon, who has run the Arabic radio station for 10 years, points to the amount of building in a Shia Muslim village such as Kafer Kela, on the border with Israel. He says: "They think that after a peace treaty the border will be open and the shops they are building will bring a lot of business."

General Lahad also sounds as if he thinks the Israeli protectorate in South Lebanon, which has existed in one form or another since 1978, has little future. Hizbollah may also worry about their future if Syria signs a peace treaty with Israel. Both may be premature. Israel does not want to be seen too publicly as having lost its long proxy war with Syria for control of Lebanon. As the war nears its end it may enter its most violent phase.

Suggested Topics
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn