US embassy cable - 85BEIRUT4802 (original version)

A BAD WEEK FOR BEIRUT (original version)

Identifier: 85BEIRUT4802
Wikileaks: View 85BEIRUT4802 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Beirut
Created: 1985-08-19 15:47:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PTER PGOV LE
Redacted: This cable was redacted by Wikileaks. [Show redacted version] [Compare redacted and unredacted version]
O 191547Z AUG 85
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4425
INFO AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L BEIRUT 04802 
 
E.O. 12356: OADR: DECL 
TAGS: PTER PGOV LE 
SUBJECT: A BAD WEEK FOR BEIRUT 
 
1.(U) SUMMARY. THE WEEK AUGUST 11-18 WITNESSED THE WORST 
OUTBREAKS OF VIOLENCE IN BEIRUT SINCE THE IMPLEMENTATION 
OF THE SYRIAN SECURITY PLAN FOR WEST BEIRUT. TWO MASSIVE 
CAR BOMBS ROCKED EAST BEIRUT ON AUGUST 14 AND 17, AND 
SHELLING ACROSS THE GREENLINE INTENSIFIED UNTIL A 
FRAGILE CEASEFIRE WAS PUT BACK IN PLACE ON AUGUST 15. 
OTHER VIOLENCE WAS REPORTED IN ZAHLE, NEAR THE PALESTINIAN 
CAMPS, AND IN TYRE. MEANWHILE THE INABILITY OF THE 
CABINET TO MEET SYMBOLIZED THE CONTINUED STALL IN THE 
POLITICAL PROCESS. END SUMMARY. 
 
2.(U) EARLY IN THE WEEK BLIND SHELLING ACROSS THE 
GREEN LINE RESUMED, CULMINATING IN A SIX HOUR EXCHANGE 
OF HEAVY ARTILLERY AND ROCKET FIRE ON AUGUST 15 THAT 
ENDED FINALLY AT THE FOURTH ATTEMPT TO IMPOSE A CEASE- 
FIRE. INTERMITTENT SHELLING HAS SINCE OCCURED, BUT AT 
A REDUCED RATE. A WEDNESDAY NOON CAR BOMB IN SADD AL 
BASHURIYAH CAUSED 13 DEATHS. 
 
3.(U) SATURDAY'S CAR BOMB, OUTSIDE A BUSY SUPERMARKET 
ON THE MAIN COASTAL ROAD IN ANTILYAS, CAUSED 67 DEATHS 
AND 122 WOUNDED. MOST OF THE DEATHS WERE CAUSED BY THE 
FIRE  THAT TRAPPED SHOPPERS AND EMPLOYEES INSIDE THE 
BOMBED BUILDING, BUT THE BLAST ITSELF, ESTIMATED AT THE 
FORCE OF 1,000 KILOS OF TNT, WAS POWERFUL ENOUGH TO HURL 
FIVE BODIES ACROSS THE COASTAL HIGHWAY AND INTO THE SEA. 
ACCORDING TO THE PRESS AGENCY "MARKAZIA" RESPONSIBILITY 
FOR THE BOMB HAS BEEN CLAIMED BY A GROUP CALLING ITSELF 
"THE RED HAND - BRIGADE OF SADR." 
 
4. (U) DURING THE WEEK ZAHLE HAS BEEN SUBJECTED TO 
EARLY MORNING ATTACKS THAT HAVE CAUSED ONLY MATERIAL 
DAMAGE. ACCORDING TO PRESS REPORTS, LF LEADER ELIE 
HOBAYKA AGREED AT A FRIDAY MEETING WITH A LOCAL GREEK 
CATHOLIC DELEGATION  TO CLOSE PHALANGE OFFICES IN THE 
CITY AND TO WITHDRAW LF MILITIAMEN. 
 
5. (U) IN OTHER EVENTS THERE WAS AN ATTACK ON AMAL OFFICES 
IN TYRE ON AUGUST 15. LEBANESE STATE TV REPORTED FIRST 
THAT THIS ATTACK HAD BEEN COMMITTED BY HIZBALLAH FORCES 
TO PROTEST AMAL RESTRICTIONS ON HIZBALLAH ACTIVITIES IN 
THE SOUTH AND THEN SUGGESTED THAT THE FIRE COULD HAVE 
COME FROM A ISRAELI PATROL VESSEL. ON AUGUST 17 THERE 
WAS A CLASH USING AUTOMATIC WEAPONS AND RPG'S BETWEEN 
AMAL AND PLO FORCES OUTSIDE THE SABRA CAMP. PALESTINIANS 
CLAIMED THAT AMAL WAS HOLDING MOUSTAPHA DIAB, AKA 
ABOUL FATEH, HEAD OF THE ARAFAT FORCES IN LEBANON. AN 
AUTHORIZED AMAL SPOKESMAN SAID THAT AMAL WAS NOT NOW 
HOLDING ANY PALESTINIANS. 
 
6. (U) THE WEEK ALSO FAILED TO REGISTER ANY FORWARD 
PROGRESS IN POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS. IN FACT AFTER THE 
ANTILYAS CAR BOMB PRIME MINISTER KARAME WAS QUOTED AS 
SAYING HE "DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO DO, WHETHER TO RESIGN OR 
TO CONTINUE ON." SHIITE CABINET MINISTERS USAYRAN AND 
BARRI, AFTER ANNOUNCING THAT THEY WOULD ATTEND A MEETING 
OF MUSLIM CABINET MINISTERS ON AUGUST 19, STATED THAT 
"IT IS TIME THAT THE SECURITY CONDITION IMPROVES AND THAT 
SYRIA CONTRIBUTES TO AN IMPROVEMENT ON THE GROUND." FOR 
ITS PART THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE LF ISSUED A 
STATEMENT "PROMISING  TO TAKE REVENGE FOR INNOCENT 
VICTIMS AND TO UNDERTAKE A RESPONSE AT A LEVEL COMMEN- 
SURATE WITH THE CRIME." 
 
7. (C) COMMENT. LAST WEEK'S EVENTS HAD NO POSITIVE ASPECT. 
LITTLE IS EXPECTED TO COME FROM TODAY'S MEETING OF 
MUSLIM CABINET MINISTERS, FROM WHICH THE TRAVELING 
WALID JUMBLATT WILL BE ABSENT. ON THE CHRISTIAN SIDE 
CONSULTATIONS ARE EXPECTED TO CONTINUE IN PREPARATION 
FOR FRANJIYYAH'S RELEASE ON SEPT. 1 OF HIS PROPOSALS 
FOR REFORM. ON THE SECURITY FRONT THERE ARE TOO MANY 
FLASHPOINTS - ALONG THE SOUTHERN BORDER STRIP, NEAR THE 
PALESTINIAN CAMPS, ALONG THE GREEN LINE, IN ZAHLE OR 
IN TRIPOLI, TO PREDICT A QUIET WEEK AHEAD. 
 
 
BARTHOLOMEW 

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