The demonstration could be a tipping point in Lebanon's burgeoning political crisis, ten days after a coalition of largely pro-Syrian opposition groups launched a series of rallies against Saniora's anti-Syrian, U.S.-backed government.At the outset of the Hizbullah demonstrations, the Hizbullah flags were kept out of sight. Now, the group is ever more brazen in showing itself and its true colors. That's not a good sign for the Lebanese people.
Lebanese combat troops and armed police sealed off major roads and added more layers of barbed wire around the prime minister's sprawling downtown complex, where he has been holed up with most of his ministers since Dec. 1.
The political unrest has split the country along dangerous sectarian lines, with most Sunni Muslims supporting the Sunni prime minister and Shiite Muslims backing the militant group Hezbollah. Christian factions are split between the two camps.
Thousands of demonstrators camped out in two downtown Beirut squares overnight, and thousands more joined the crowd early Sunday. Several hundred tents have lined the area for more than a week.
Many of the protesters waved Lebanese or Hezbollah flags, as loudspeakers blasted anthems in support of the guerrilla group. Hezbollah security agents wearing white caps fanned out in the crowd.
Abu Kais notes that Syria is growing impatient with Hizbullah's demonstrations. Part of it has to do with the Lebanese approval process for the tribunal looking into the assassination of Rafik Hariri, which will likely find Syrian fingerprints all over the assassination - up to and including Bashar Assad's inner circle. Assad would not allow that to stand.
Raja at Lebanese Bloggers noted the latest speeches today, and found the message to be clear - Hizbullah wants the country under its yoke, and will cede domestic policy to Aoun while it carries on the foreign policy of attacking Israel at the earliest possible opportunity.
Open Lebanon has more news and updates.
So, with all hell about ready to break loose because the Syrians are busy pumping up Hizbullah and violating UN SCR 1701 on a daily basis, what do the French do? They deploy UAVs to try to prevent Israel from seeing what Hizbullah is about ready to do.
Hundreds of thousands of Hizbullah supporters turned out for today's protests. Abu Kais puts things succinctly. The government must enforce the rule of law. Hizbullah's illegal war over the summer and ongoing violation of international law must be dealt with, and Siniora must take action.
Action speaks louder than words. Action against outlaws Hizbullah and Aoun should be taken. The Lebanese government waited until they were comfortable enough to mobilize people and capitalize on the state's weak/weakened resolve.
PM Siniora saw today’s mass protests (plural because March 14 staged another in Tripoli) as "freedom of expression", and proof that "freedom should be protected in Lebanon". On Friday, he accused Hizbullah of staging a coup d’etat. I am sorry, but if you're going to accuse someone of staging a coup, you have to keep at it and not spin it into "freedom of expression". There are other things you need to do, like mobilize your army and security forces against the organizers of this coup. Let it be war between the legitimate authority and the illegal militia before it becomes a war between sects.
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