Michael Totten

The Military Situation in Beirut

_By Tony Badran (cross-posted at “Across the Bay”:http://beirut2bayside.blogspot.com/2008/05/military-situation-in-beirut.html)_
Fighting in Beirut has broken out between Hezbollah/Amal and Future Movement supporters. Here’s a brief look at the military situation. For a political reading, see the “post”:http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/2008/05/hezbollahs-endg.php by Lee Smith below, and make sure to read the excellent quoted “op-ed”:http://michaelyoungscolumns.blogspot.com/2008/05/heading-toward-lebanese-divorce.html by Michael Young.
The tactics are reminiscent of the 1970s-80s war, with two essential differences: 1- the trigger is not the Palestinian guerrilla threat to the state, but Hezbollah’s threat to Lebanon, and 2- the beginning fault line is to the west of the 1975 flash point.
The current “areas”:http://almashriq.hiof.no/lebanon/900/910/919/beirut/pictures/html/Beirut.html of clashes are roughly along a crescent from “Hamra”:http://almashriq.hiof.no/lebanon/900/910/919/beirut/pictures/html/c-3.html and the vicinity of the Serail in the north down to “Tariq el-Jdideh”:http://almashriq.hiof.no/lebanon/900/910/919/beirut/pictures/html/e-5.html in the south, and the “vicinity”:http://almashriq.hiof.no/lebanon/900/910/919/beirut/pictures/html/c-2.html of Qoreitem (Hariri’s residence) and Ain el-Tineh (Berri’s residence) in the west to “Ras el-Nabe'”:http://almashriq.hiof.no/lebanon/900/910/919/beirut/pictures/html/d-5.html in the east.
The areas therein are mixed Sunni-Shiite areas, especially in the Corniche Mazraa-Barbour area, and the “fighting”:http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=41587 has even touched on the Druze neighborhood northward, next to Hamra. The vicinity of the Serail has also seen some fire.
The armed clashes have included standards of the civil war: light and medium machine guns, grenades and RPGs (and, apparently, we’re now seeing light mortars by Hezbollah in Ras el-Nabe’ — also a staple of the 70s-80s), and sniping, which was/is a highly effective tool to control opposing movements and neighborhoods in built-up areas.
The nature of the fighting, again, typical of the 70s-80s, involves control/blocking of access routes (using bulldozers, landfills, etc.), main roads and highways, control of neighborhoods (esp. those that are mixed), and control of strategic tall buildings (for sniping).
There’s no clear report yet regarding casualties and the situation on the ground in terms of advances, if any, by the combatants and the control of neighborhoods. Interestingly, the blockages of roads has involved both parties. The coastal road leading to the south has been cut, in a message to the ability to cut off the communication between Hezbollah areas, isolating them in certain areas, should the fighting develop.
The Army is positioned at certain roads, and is attempting to open certain roads.
This is a brief synopsis and I’ll hopefully have more as time permits.