Impressions, views, and steam-blowing by a lonesome cowboy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Fun with Jund el Sham

Once more, a development that shows that in Lebanon concepts like "sovereignty" and "rule of law" are mere jokes. The tragedy is that we still do not understand, or want to understand, that the new "state", which everybody says they want, cannot exist without taking these concepts very seriously.

Armed clash Sunday in Sidon. Leaving aside the possible instigators of the clash. I'd like to post the full Naharnet story with my own comments [bracketed]. I know that this is not 1975, but still I find many aspects of this story extremely disturbing.

The Naharnet Story:

Army Disengages Warring Jund El Sham Gunmen and Nasserite Militiamen in Sidon

A wobbly cease-fire reined [sic] in Sidon Monday, a day after gun battles flared on the streets of the city's closest residential neighborhood of Ta'mir to the teeming Palestinian refugee camp of Ein El Hilweh, leaving one gunman dead and three others hospitalized with bullet and shrapnel wounds.

Lebanese army troops in full battle gear patrolled the embattled neighborhoods and redoubled security controls at all entrances to the Ein El-Hilweh camp on the southeastern outskirts of Sidon, provincial capital of south Lebanon and the nation's third largest city after Beirut and Tripoli.

"Troops have disengaged the combatants and are manning buffer zones," said a police officer on the scene.

[Bad News, I thought the army's job was to shoot and arrest these criminals and law breakers, not just "disengage" them. We're not talking "engagement" and "fiancés" here.]

He {police officer}said the daylong clashes on Sunday pitted militiamen of the outlawed Jund El Sham Palestinian faction against armed Lebanese youth loyal to Osama Saad's Nasserite organization in Ta'mir.

[Note that Jund el Sham are outlawed. We don’t know what that means in Lebanon, but "outlawed" they are]

Crouching at entrances of apartment building and street corners, the antagonists fired machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades at each other on the fringe of the one square-kilometer camp that houses 75,000 refugees, the biggest Palestinian shantytown in Lebanon.

[As long it's the fringe of the camp, it's OK and maybe it won't make page-one in the newspapers]

Tensions built to a peak between the two sides on Saturday, when a Jund El Sham guerrilla stabbed a Nasserite with a knife in what was described by police as a 'personal quarrel.' Staccato outburst of sporadic gunfire and RPG [rocket propelled grenades] explosions reverberated across Sidon, culminating in an hour-long pitched battle at sundown Sunday, police officers said.

[Explosions are "across Sidon" now. We don't know if this is Naharnet waxing poetic or actual fact. Musically, however, "staccato" is less scary than "furioso", lucky for Sidon. Also note: the police guy is only commenting the situation, like it were a football game. Anyone detect any police ACTION here?]

The city's two parliament members, Nasserite Osama Saad and Bahia Hariri, slain ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's sister, managed through intense negotiations supported by Hizbullah to call a cease-fire. Police reported 'only minor breaches' on Monday.

["Good" news: The police continue to only report, and the breaches are only minor now. We're now Andante musically, with automatic gunfire in B minor, and the RPG section is now silent. Thank God the two Sidon MP's "negotiated" with the criminals and outlaws, and had Hezbo's benediction. Is there an executive branch in Lebanon? Army or police? (other than for reporting to he press that is)? If so, what do they do, beside patrol after the fact in their spiffy uniforms?]

The dead victim was identified as Mahmoud Dirani, a Nasserite, and two of the three other wounded were pro-Nasserite gunmen. The third wounded man belonged to Jund El Sham, a notorious faction of Sunni Muslim fanatics accused of staging terrorist attacks in several parts of Lebanon and Syria.

[I am not sure the Jund were part of the most recent amnesty, but you can rest assured they will be part of the next one, provided some of them are arrested]

Jund al-Sham emerged in Ein el-Hilweh last year. Its estimated 50 members at the time regarded Shiite Muslims and Christians as infidels. The group's membership is believed to have increased to 200, who are at loggerheads with the mainstream Palestinian Fatah faction, which effectively controls the camp apart from a neighborhood called Safsaf, where fanatics are entrenched. Jund El Sham gunmen staged hit-and-run forays against Nasserites in Ta'mir from Safsaf.

[More bad news; The Jund were 50 guys. Then, they were outlawed. Result: now there are 200 of them. More fun people for MP Saad and Bahia to "negotiate" with.

Also, they are illegal, or was it "outlawed". The Palestinians in the camps hate them, the Sidawis hate them, the Nasserites hate them, and they are shooting guns and RPG at people and buildings which, I believe, is against the law in Lebanon. They also attacked Syria at one point. In other words: no one supports these people, they are criminals. The state has an army of 70,000 and the Jund are 200. We still do not have the political will to go after these creeps? As well as the other group shooting at them or with them?]

The flare-up came a week after Premier Saniora agreed with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris on a mechanism to restrict the presence of Palestinian arms within the camps and remove any weapons outside their boundaries.

[Even Mahmoud Abbas supports the Lebanese government, which must count for something. Does it?]

End of Naharnet story.

Now from the Daily Star. I'll use excerpts (full story here):

SIDON: Prime Minister Fouad Saniora headed a security meeting Monday to discuss the violent clashes in Taamir, near the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, and to take steps to ease the tension.

[You are the PM Mr. Sanioura, but don't you think these people should be caught and prosecuted, as opposed to "discussions" and "easing the tension"? It's not like we have office workers here who are fighting over use of the Xerox machine. By the way Mr. Prime Minister, aren't these the people who threatened to kill YOU, and Mr. Mehlis? In the old Hollywood they used to say: what does a guy need to do to get arrested in this town?]

Meanwhile, Taamir residents handed the Lebanese Army a petition asking it to move in and protect them.

{You have been warned. When criminals and thugs come to wreak havoc in your neighborhood, better lock your door and have that petition signed and ready, otherwise the army will move on to the next petition.]

When asked about the reasons for the clashes, one man replied: "Ask the state and its intelligence. We are defending ourselves against [Lebanese??] intelligence agents. We burned the house of one of them so that he would learn a lesson." On Monday, soldiers at the entrance to the Taamir area tightened security measures.

[More bad news, if true. The thugs are "teaching" army allies/agents a lesson. It means the Jund attacked someone working for army intelligence, another assault on the authority of the army and the state. Gee, have we seen this movie before?

And further bad news: Reports elsewhere indicate that both shooting groups were reporting to army intelligence, found out about each other's activities, and began shooting. The army can't keep its agents in check?. Furthermore, lock up the whole bunch, instead of having thugs reporting on thugs to army guys who report to headquarters. I thought reporting was the police's main and only job (see above)]

Finally MP Bahia Hariri, according to L'Orient-LeJour, said that the incident doesn’t "serve the Palestinian cause". OK Bahia, why is it relevant to say that? What if it did help the Palestinian cause? Then it would be OK to be shooting RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) in the middle of Saida?

Thirty years after 1975: similar armed thugs, similar absence of authority, and similar visionless and unimaginative politicians. You want to have a modern and effective state without understanding the basics? Try again.


  • At 10/25/05, 8:47 AM, Blogger Raja said…

    great post Josey.

  • At 10/25/05, 5:17 PM, Blogger JoseyWales said…

    Thx Raja.

  • At 10/26/05, 4:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I missed something: are we talking about Lebanese Nasserite or Palestinian Nasserite?

  • At 10/26/05, 9:11 PM, Blogger JoseyWales said…

    Does it matter anon?

    The army and police should be the only armed people in the streets.

    Re your question, not sure. Some reports say the Nasserites were Lebanese, followers of Usama Saad.

    Saad says his men came to disengage the fighters(?), and that the weapons were newly acquired weapons from outside the camp.

    My point is: I don't care who all these criminal idiots are. If they are breaking the law and endangering life and property in the worst way, they should be shot or in jail.

  • At 6/27/07, 9:55 AM, Blogger Hussein said…

    I agree that the army and police should be the only ones allowed to carry weapons, but when your army is an organized militia backed by certain polticians then we have problem, we need to learn how to get along! peace from USA

  • At 7/4/07, 8:35 AM, Blogger JoseyWales said…


    I am not sure what you refer to. Whatever your beef with the army, it should be addressed via public debate and the political process.

    The Lebanese critics have never come out and said: we want these reforms. They only say, we don't like what we see, so we'll keep our weapons.

    As to the non Lebanese, they should have NO WEAPONS and NO POLITICAL organizations.

    Do the German Social Democrats have an office and organize people in the US?


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