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News :: International
Arabs Seeks Way to Disarm Arab Militia Groups
01 Jun 2006
Lebanese politicians have begun focusing attention on the Palestinian militias as a critical security issue and have vowed to disarm them.
The radical Palestinian militiamen operating a checkpoint here south of Beirut seemed to be from another era, vestiges of the bloody civil war in the 1970's and 80's.

But two days after missiles flew from southern Lebanon into northern Israel, prompting Israeli warplanes to pound local camps in the worst cross-border fighting in years, they were also something else: a challenge to the Lebanese government.

Lebanese politicians have begun focusing attention on the Palestinian militias as a critical security issue and have vowed to disarm them.

Palestinian refugees have played various crucial roles in the tangled history of Lebanon. For instance, Palestinian raids on Israel from Lebanese bases in the 1970's drew Israeli fire and episodes of occupation. Palestinian militias took sides in Lebanon's civil war, fighting so strongly that Syria was eventually drawn in as a counterweight, for the start of nearly 30 years of occupation.

The Palestinian militias that persist in Lebanon — and operate from points like in Naameh — are mostly rogue groups like Fatah Intifada and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. Both are based in Syria; neither is part of the Palestine Liberation Organization. They are estimated to have fewer than 500 men between them.

But Lebanese officials note that in recent confrontations with the Lebanese Army, their ranks have swelled. The officials accuse Syria of resupplying them with weaponry.

"These are Syrian groups, not Palestinian groups," said the Druse leader Walid Jumblatt, a main leader of the anti-Syrian majority in Parliament. "As long as you have uncontrolled armed groups with the pretext of liberation, Lebanon will not have stability."

In mid-May one group clashed with Lebanese Army soldiers in the Bekaa region, the third incident of its kind in a year.

"The clashes have challenged the government's ability to build a state," said Ghassan Moukheiber, a member of Parliament with the Free Patriotic Movement of Gen. Michel Aoun, which is allied to Hezbollah. "This has become a call on the Lebanese government to define its defense strategy and its policy."

Last month Lebanon's numerous factions, meeting for a national dialogue to settle political issues like the future of President Émile Lahoud and the future of the militias, unanimously agreed that the Palestinian groups should disarm and return to refugee camps. Officials pointed to Hezbollah's participation as a sign that the talk might produce results.

The government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, conscious of the destabilizing potential of the Palestinian groups, has insisted that they be disarmed through negotiations, not force, adding to skepticism that anything will happen. Lebanese groups have yet to agree on a plan for the disarming.

"We don't want to repeat the mistakes of the past," said Khalil Makkawi, a former Lebanese ambassador to the United Nations, who heads the committee negotiating with the groups to disarm.

"We know our history, and we have seen a scenario like this in 1975," he said, referring to the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war. "So we intend to do this peacefully."

Mr. Makkawi's committee began a groundbreaking dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization and other Palestinian groups earlier this month to improve conditions in Lebanon's sprawling refugee camps. The refugees there, who now number some 500,000, are not allowed to work in professional fields or own property.

The effort has also included the reopening of the P.L.O.'s office in Beirut after almost 30 years. But so far, Mr. Makkawi said, the effort has been hindered by the inability of the Palestinians to agree on a unified delegation that can negotiate with the government.

Ostensibly, Mr. Makkawi's effort aims to get Palestinians out of militias by opening work opportunities and improving their living conditions.

The most troubling aspect of the violence on Sunday, Mr. Makkawi and other officials say, is that no group took responsibility for the initial rocket barrage into Israel that set off the violence, raising the possibility that the attack was meant more to encourage Israeli reprisal than to strike a blow across the border.

"There are people on our soil undertaking dangerous acts and putting Lebanon in a difficult situation," Mr. Makkawi said. "You've got a really dangerous situation when you have people using Lebanese territory and you don't even know who they are."

Early Sunday morning, a militant group fired several Katyusha rockets into northern Israel, setting off Israeli airstrikes and an afternoon of bombardments by Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas. The incident was the worst bout of fighting since Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000.

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, one of whose leaders was assassinated in southern Lebanon on Friday, vigorously denied a role and dismissed as a hoax a statement of responsibility in its name faxed to news agencies. Hezbollah, which controls the southern border sections of Lebanon, insisted that it had no idea who was responsible for the rocket attack.

But Hezbollah is the primary target of the United Nations resolution on disarming militias and so may have the most to lose if that is done. Mr. Jumblatt and others have accused its leaders of dragging their feet on the issue.

"We have agreed to deal with this issue peacefully," said Ahmad Malli, a member of Hezbollah's political leadership. "But Lebanese will not be pulled into a fight for anyone."

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Comments

So has Iran made Jews start wearing their identifying strips of cloth? Oh wait! That was A LIE!!
01 Jun 2006
Israel lies. Period. If you like being lied to, you'll love Israel.
Re: Arabs Seeks Way to Disarm Arab Militia Groups
01 Jun 2006
Romans accepted Goth refugees and disarmed them and treated them very badly. Doesn't make the Hun's invasion any less of an offense. That lebanese politicans are nervous about palestinian refugees (of the ZIonist's war of conquest in Palestine) doesn't make the Zionist's invasion of palestine any less of an offense either.