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Cablegate: Lebanon: Prospect of Hizballah War with Israel Prompts Some

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PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #0406 0791423
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191423Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1323
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS BEIRUT 000406

SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH/DEMOPOLOUS/YERGER

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL IS LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: PROSPECT OF HIZBALLAH WAR WITH ISRAEL PROMPTS SOME
LEBANESE TO PREPARE FOR THE WORST


SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) Rumors of an imminent Hizballah-Israeli war have spread
throughout various regions of Lebanon, namely southern Lebanon, the
Biqa', and the southern suburbs of Beirut. These rumors have led
many to prepare themselves for such a war: renewing their
passports, stocking up on food, applying for visas, and renting
houses in "safer" areas. The presence of the USS Cole off the
Lebanese territorial waters earlier this month and rumors of a Saudi
decision to evacuate its citizens from Lebanon augmented the feeling
of fear among the Lebanese. Some Amcits have also voiced their
concerns of an imminent conflict.

REPORTS OF PREPARATIONS
IN CASE OF WAR
-----------------------

2. (U) The Lebanese press recently has been reporting stories of
Lebanese citizens' preparations for what is perceived as an imminent
Hizballah war with Israel, namely in southern Lebanon and the Biqa'.
Hizballah SYG Hassan Nasrallah's recent threat of an open war and
Hizballah's expected retaliation for the assassination of one of its
leaders, Imad Mugniyeh, as well as the overall precarious political
situation in Lebanon prompted some jittery Lebanese to prepare their
passports in order to flee the country or rent apartments in "safe"
areas.

3. (U) The Associated France Press (AFP) quoted Lina Melhem, a
resident of the southern suburbs of Beirut as saying, "I renewed my
passport and those of my three children because I'm scared something
is going to happen." Mohammed, a resident of the southern village
of Qlayle, which was heavily bombed during the July 2006 war, told
the AFP that he was looking to rent an apartment in Aley, east of
Beirut. Furthermore, in the Hizballah stronghold in eastern Biqa',
residents have been looking for houses in predominantly Christian
areas, which they deem more protected from potential Israeli air
strikes.

4. (U) The AFP also reported that an official at the passport
office in Baalback said he has seen a 30 percent surge in the
numbers of passports issued in recent weeks. Another security
official in the southern town of Tyre told the AFP that his office
was receiving up to 400 requests a day for passport renewals,
compared to 75 previously.

5. (U) Daily al-Akhbar, a pro-opposition newspaper, reported that
Lebanese working with UNIFIL have been asked to prepare documents to
facilitate their expeditious departure from Lebanon, insinuating an
imminent conflict. Press also reported that UNIFIL bolstered its
positions along the eastern sector of its operations and installed
six security towers in a 500-meter area. These security towers
surround the Lebanese part of the village of Ghajar, bordering
Israel. (Note: Charge will meet UNIFIL Force Commander MG Graziano
this week and will follow up on these reports. End note.)

6. (SBU) Yassine Jaber, a Shia MP from the southern town of
Nabatiyeh, told Polstaff March 5 that those in his hometown have
been renting houses in Sidon and Jezzine because they believe these
areas are safer. Additionally,
Beirut residents have rented houses in Mount Lebanon, specifically
in Broumanna, Faraya, and other pre-dominantly Christian areas.
Afaf Ghaddar, manager at a business company called Credit Card
Services, told Polstaff that the company has set up a back up office
in Jordan in case of a war in Lebanon. Ghaddar added that the
company is ready to continue providing its services to its clients
from its Jordan offices.

AMCITS VOICE CONCERN
OF IMMINENT WAR
--------------------

7. (U) Some Amcits have also voiced their concerns of an imminent
war. Conoff reported that the American Citizens Services section
has received increased calls indicating that some Amcits are much
more concerned about the situation than they were a few months ago.
Furthermore, he noted that more and more Amcits are asking questions
about how they can sponsor family members to come to the U.S.; these
Amcits have generally told Conoff they plan on returning to the U.S.
within the next few months.

SISON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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