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Syrian media’s coverage of Lebanese troubles

BBC Monitoring

Analysis by Amani Soliman of BBC Monitoring on 4 June

    As fighting flared between the Lebanese Army and gunmen in the second Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh in south Lebanon on 4 June, the Syrian media continues to cover the story from its own angle.


Syrian TV

    In its evening newscast on 3 June, Syrian state TV reported on the eruption of the fighting. It referred to the unrest in the second Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh as between the Lebanese Army and "armed men from Jund al-Sham group."

    However, in reporting on the ongoing clashes between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Barid camp in north Lebanon, Syrian state-run television quoted Lebanese Army sources as saying that "eight Fatah al-Isalm members, including one of the group's leaders, were killed."

    But, when reporting on the deaths within the ranks of the Lebanese Army, Syrian TV used the term "martyred in the clashes".

    These clashes were the latest to rock the stability of Lebanon, where a political crisis is unfolding between the government of Prime Minister Fu'ad al-Sanyurah and Syria's Lebanese allies.

    In its coverage of this crisis, Syrian state television only quotes the Lebanese voices that it finds favourable to its line. It said: "Lebanese MP Usamah Sa'd blames the government team for supporting Fatah al-Islam to create chaos and serve the American-Israeli conspiracies."

    Syrian TV quoted Lebanese Shite leader Shaykh Abdul Ami Qabalan as "warning against dragging the Lebanese Army into political conflicts that serve only Israel." Hezbollah officials are also quoted on Syrian TV. "A Hezbollah official warns against constitutional vacuum," the channel said.

    In further coverage on 4 June, Syrian TV quoted a "Lebanese Nasserite MP blaming the 'illegitimate' government for fostering Fatah al-Islam group, and for plotting with the US and Israel to cause chaos in Lebanon."

    It also quoted "Lebanese Shi'i religious leader warning of escalating violence."


Al-Manar TV

    In its coverage of the crisis on 3 June, Beirut-based Hezbollah-backed Al-Manar TV highlighted the fact that "there are no signs of political mediation after all attempts failed during the past days."

    A correspondent from the scene noted that there is an urgent appeal from within the Palestinian refugee camps due to the "tragic situation of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon."

    The TV channel said: "Informed sides have reported that political contacts have been discontinued after a decision was made to resolve the issue militarily, something that was accepted by some Palestinian factions and opposed by others. Efforts are now focused on reintroducing a political solution."


Syrian Press

    The Syrian press adopted a similar line. In an article published on 3 June in the state-run daily Al-Thawrah, Salim Abbud maintains that "whenever the Arabs try to move towards peace, the Israelis move towards aggression."

    He said that the United States is today trying to "dismantle the victory of the Lebanese resistance by creating a crisis among the Lebanese and between Lebanon and Syria, and by preoccupying the Arabs with the so-called Iranian danger."

    On 1 June, Al-Thawra quoted Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Mish'al's objections to the Lebanese army's bombardment of Nahr al-Barid refugee camp after clashes with Fateh al-Islam militants, and called for a peaceful solution to the crisis.

    The paper highlighted Mish'al's comments to reporters saying that "Hamas is against Palestinian interference in Lebanese affairs and against targeting any Lebanese soldier, but we also don't accept the bombardment of the camp or punishment of our people, in Nahr al-Barid or elsewhere."

    In its 1 June edition, Al-Thawra featured a statement by Nasir Qandil, Head of the Orient Centre for Strategic Studies, and former Lebanese MP, that Lebanon has become vulnerable to all security and political possibilities following the establishment of the International Tribunal. Qandil charged that "the governing team in Lebanon has become unable to move after Lebanon has become mortgaged to US will."

    Source: BBC Monitoring research on 4 Jun 07



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