At least 10 die in Beirut clashes
Fierce clashes raged in Beirut on Thursday and early Friday after the Iranian-backed group Hizbullah said the U.S.-supported Lebanese government had declared war by targeting its military communications network. According to Reuters, security sources said the fighting killed at least 10 people and wounded 20.
Governing coalition leader Saad al-Hariri proposed a deal to end the crisis under which the government decisions that infuriated the Shiite movement would be considered a "misunderstanding". The decisions would then be referred to the Lebanese army, which has been neutral in the confrontations, giving army commander General Michel Suleiman the option to suspend their implementation.
But Hizbullah's al-Manar TV later quoted an opposition source as rejecting any ideas for ending the conflict other than those proposed by Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah earlier on Thursday. Nasrallah had demanded measures taken by the government this week be rescinded.
Druze leader Walid Jumblat declared support for the Hariri initiative and proposed a concept of "coexistence with the resistance if the present balance of powers does not permit absorbing it in the army."
Hariri's offer included reopening of roads, withdrawing gunmen from the streets, the immediate election of army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman president and shifting to national dialogue under Suleiman's auspices. Hariri said if Nasrallah accepted his offer it would mean that he has chosen the path of supporting the concept of a state, otherwise he would be seeking to replace the state.
Jumblat also said If Nasrallah rejected the Hariri offer, it means that he is trying to replace the state. Commenting on Nasrallah's press conference, Hariri said the Hizbullah leader declared "I am the state." Hariri pledged that "Beirut would not bow."
Fighters from the Shi'ite movements Hizbullah and Amal exchanged assault rifle fire and rocket-propelled grenades with pro-government gunmen, including fighters loyal to the Sunni Future movement, in several areas of the capital. Security sources said Hizbullah gunmen overran at least five offices of Hariri's Future group and police-guarded houses of pro-government officials.