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Supplies run thin in Lebanon
by Middle East Online
Thursday Jul 20th, 2006 6:52 PM
Lebanese are stocking up on basic food, emergency supplies amid Israel’s continuous bombardment.
By Beatrice Khadige - BEIRUT

Fearing the worst, people in Lebanon are furiously stocking up on basic food and emergency supplies amid a deadly Israeli military bombardment that shows no sign of letting up.

"In the past week my sales have gone up 200 percent," said Camille Najjar who runs a small grocery store in the eastern capital district of Ashrafiyeh, which has so far been largely spared by the Israeli offensive which has killed more than 300 people in eight days.

"But I received a quarter of my regular soft drink shipment this morning. The delivery man said they had no more stock because there was no more production."

In one of Beirut's large supermarkets, near the once posh Hamra street, the displays are well-stocked as usual. The fruits and vegetables are fresh, and include African bananas and fat mangos from Egypt.

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http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=17024
by Middle East Online
Thursday Jul 20th, 2006 6:53 PM
Finance minister says Lebanon's finances will survive despite huge damages caused by Israel’s onslaught.


BEIRUT - Israel's onslaught on Lebanon has inflicted several billion dollars worth of damage in just nine days, but the country's finances will survive, Finance Minister Jihad Azour told AFP on Thursday.

"There is massive damage worth several billions of dollars," he said.

"Nobody can give precise estimates about the damage because the destruction is increasing by the hour, they keep bombing houses, roads, bridges, the infrastructure, factories, warehouses and even trucks are being targeted," he said.

"These are the immediate material damages, but there are also economic losses in terms of tourism, exports, trade and industry, as well as loss of earnings," he said.

However Azour insisted that "there is no panic, the situation is very reasonable, it is not reflecting on economic and monetary stability."

"The country has gained an experience in crisis management, and the country has been in an improving economic situation. Also, the Central Bank of Lebanon has foreign currency reserves worth 13 billion dollars," he said.

He also said the nation's balance of payments recorded a 1.8 billion dollar surplus in June, a sharp turnaround from a 1.5 billion dollar the year before.

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http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=17029
by ArabNews (reposted)
Thursday Jul 20th, 2006 7:11 PM
Israel's systematic destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure has completely disrupted normal life in the south of the country, as it was supposed to do. Devastated roads and communications mean the free movement of goods and people has come to a halt. Shop shelves have emptied rapidly, power and water supplies have been disrupted and hundreds of thousands of people are facing a humanitarian disaster of massive proportions.

The world is aware of this looming horror, but until the Israeli onslaught ceases, getting food and medicines to beleaguered areas is virtually impossible. The UN High Commission for Refugees has warned such behavior toward a civilian population could be construed as a war crime. Along with countries like France, the UN has been seeking an arrangement with the Israelis to guarantee the safe passage of relief convoys into the south of the country. But the Olmert government is clearly not yet in the mood to allow anything to interfere with its campaign of aerial terror.

Spotter planes, very probably backed up by intelligence supplied by the United States spy satellites, constantly patrol Lebanon’s skies. If it looks like a rocket launcher, then it is a rocket launcher and Israeli warplanes will quickly be vectored to take it out. Thus the first attack on a Christian area in the north of Beirut on Wednesday when jets blew up two construction trucks, mounting pipes and equipment for pumping concrete into foundations.

The neighborhood was immediately plunged into panic since it had been assumed that the Israelis would have confined their attacks on Beirut to the Muslim south of the capital. The truth however is that the aggressors do not care what damage they do to whom. There are no hiding places in the Lebanon this week, as testified by the vast exodus of terrified foreigners.

The Israeli war machine has only a few more days left to wreak as much destruction as it can, not just on Hezbollah but on the rest of the Lebanese. It has doubtless been calculated that any humanitarian relief effort can wait a while longer while the south of the country in particular lies prostrate beneath the deadly air campaign. The protests of the outside world are preferable to the public relations disaster of taking out part of a relief convoy because spies had told their masters in Tel Aviv that it was actually carrying logistics for Hezbollah.


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http://arabnews.com/?page=7§ion=0&article=85689&d=21&m=7&y=2006
by UK Guardian (reposted)
Friday Jul 21st, 2006 6:20 AM
Infrastructure damage will cost 'billions of dollars to repair'

Brian Whitaker in Beirut
Friday July 21, 2006
The Guardian

The catastrophic scale of destruction inflicted on Lebanon's infrastructure and economy by the Israeli bombardment was becoming apparent yesterday as government officials released details to the Guardian of the damage so far.

With countless homes wrecked, 55 bridges destroyed and numerous roads made impassable, factories, hospitals and airports hit and fuel storage facilities destroyed, estimates of the reconstruction cost already run into billions of dollars.

"We know the cost is in billions," a government spokeswoman said yesterday. "But it's very difficult to estimate more precisely because there are many places we can't reach."

The prime minister, Fouad Siniora, has already said he will "spare no avenue" to to obtain compensation from Israel "for the barbaric destruction it has inflicted and continues to inflict upon us".

In imposing an air and sea blockade, Israeli forces have put Beirut airport out of action and damaged two smaller airports, one of them military, and knocked out all the civilian and military radar stations, according to officials.

Israeli forces have also attacked three of the country's main seaports - Beirut, Tripoli and Jamil Gemayel - as well as putting Beirut's lighthouse out of action and hitting an antenna in Tripoli that was vital for maritime operations.

The energy sector has been hit too, with the destruction of 17 fuel stores, four gas stores and the bombing of 12 petrol stations. An electricity generator in Sibline has also been damaged.

Various factories and warehouses have been destroyed or put out of action. Last night the social affairs minister, Nayla Mouawad, singled out two she said had been wrecked "on purpose". One was a milk plant in the Bekaa valley.

"It was our biggest milk factory in the Bekaa ... an essential asset for bringing milk to newborn babies and young children," she said.

The other was a detergent and foodstuffs warehouse for Procter & Gamble, which she described as "essential for food and hygiene".

Lebanon had also been expecting more than 1.2 million tourists - mainly wealthy Gulf Arabs and people of Lebanese descent - this summer. "It was going to be brilliant," Ms Mouawad said. "We were expecting an income of $2.5bn to $3bn [£1.3bn to £1.6bn], which was necessary to start repaying our debts."

Some hotels have temporarily closed, although others in Beirut have been full over the past few days with Lebanese fleeing the Israeli onslaught and foreigners awaiting evacuation.

Many shops and other small businesses have also closed, either through lack of customers or because staff can no longer travel to work.

According to Sami Haddad, the minister of economy and trade, Lebanon has enough essential supplies to last two months. The government's prime concern is food - especially getting flour and grain to outlying villages.

"Any large transportation vehicles are being bombed ... There is difficulty getting flour to some villages," he said.

Besides securing food supplies, the government's other main objective is to keep the price of essential goods stable.

Despite the attacks on fuel stores, Mr Haddad said supplies of petrol and diesel were "more than adequate" for the time being. To conserve fuel, though, electricity is being cut off in Beirut for six hours a day.

"Our fuel will last 45 to 60 days on this basis," the minister said.

In the meantime, the Lebanese government has launched a diplomatic initiative aimed at bringing in fresh supplies through the Israeli-imposed blockade.

There have been contacts with the US, Britain and France, and Lebanon is seeking international protection for transporting essential goods.

"We are asking for a humanitarian corridor to link Lebanon with the rest of the world - and a corridor within Lebanon to bring assistance to most of the villages in the south which are cut off from the rest of the country," Ms Mouawad said. "They are poor villages and they are lacking everything."

In one attack on Monday, Israeli missiles hit a convoy near the town of Zahle as it approached Beirut from Syria. Three trucks were damaged or destroyed, as well as four passenger vehicles.

Journalists at the scene reported that the trucks had contained supplies of medicines, vegetable oil, sugar and rice. The Red Crescent Society of the United Arab Emirates said in a statement that the convoy had included medical supplies and medicines, as well as several ambulances. Officials in the UAE also said the convoy was clearly marked as a relief operation.

The mass exodus from Lebanon has led many people to empty their bank accounts, raising fears of a financial crisis.

The Central Bank has been propping up the Lebanese pound, but according to local press reports there is no need to panic because it has more than $13bn in foreign currency reserves.

By tradition, Lebanon has a dual currency system, and US dollars are in increasingly short supply. Banks have also been restricting cash withdrawals in dollars, with an upper limit of $2,000 to $3,000 a person.

Damage to date

Energy

· Jiye power station, 20 miles south of Beirut, repeatedly hit; electricity generator hit in Sibline.

· Electricity in Beirut said to be "feeble and flickering", with large areas cut off.

· In south, electrical supply almost completely cut. Estimated total of 750,000 people without electricity.

· Four gas stores hit; 17 fuel stores destroyed; 12 petrol stations bombed. Prices have rocketed sixfold in some cities, such as Tyre.

Water

· Treatment plant hit in Dair al-Zahrani, south of Sidon.

· Two trucks with water drilling equipment destroyed in Ashrafiyeh, Beirut.

Transport

· Of Lebanon's seven airports, Beirut airport out of action (runways damaged, fuel tanks destroyed), Qoleiaat in the north and Riyaq military airport in Bekaa severely damaged. All main civilian and military radar stations out of action.

· Three main seaports - Beirut, Tripoli and Jamil Gemayel - hit. Maritime operations antenna hit in Tripoli; Beirut lighthouse out of action.

· 38 main roads severely damaged from the air, including road to Damascus.

· 55 bridges destroyed, mainly those running to southern Lebanon.

Medical care

· Two hospitals hit, one in Nabatiyeh and one in the southern suburbs of Beirut; at least one destroyed (Mayss al-Jabal).

· Convoy of donated medical goods hit near Zahle.

Communications

· Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV station in Beirut hit.

Industry

· Liban Lait milk plant in Bekaa hit.

· Tissue paper factory in Sidon attacked.

· Paper mill in southern Beirut hit.

· Medical supplies company in southern Beirut hit; grain silos hit at port.

· Warehouse of Transmed company in Beirut caught fire; $10m losses.

· Stores of Procter & Gamble products hit in Choueifat.

Economy

· Stock market closed on Monday after falling 14%.

· Banks limit withdrawals by panicked customers to $1,000. Central bank keeping currency stable, say dealers.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/syria/story/0,,1825669,00.html