After two civil wars, multiple invasions and political assassinations galore, you might think Lebanon deserves a break from the greatest crisis since its last greatest crisis. But no – here we were this week with the Israelis claiming the Hezbollah were running a missile factory in the Bekaa Valley and the prime minister – the Lebanese one, not the Israeli – claiming that the world’s investors could put their money in his country even though this infinitely small nation has one of the world’s highest debt to GDP ratios. One-hundred-and-fifty per cent to be precise.
Saad Hariri, the prime minister in question – and yes, his father was indeed assassinated by a huge car bomb a few hundred metres from my own home in Beirut – has been trying to talk down the threat of a credit-rating downgrade just as Lebanon itself declared a “state of economic emergency” on Monday. It was his high-spending billionaire father who kicked off his country’s near-bankruptcy with a massive new city centre after the civil war had destroyed much of Beirut. That is the second civil war we are talking about. It lasted 15 years and cost around 150,000 lives. The figure, by the way, creeps up to 175,000, depending on the newspapers you choose to trust.
But the latest crisis in Lebanon has an almost unstoppable power. It started with two Israeli drones crashing into the southern suburbs of Beirut, where the Hezbollah has its headquarters, and much talk from “security experts” that the targets were Hezbollah missile-manufacturing locations. The Israelis have not said they used drones – which in Beirut means they have – but the Hezbollah produced video of a rocket apparently smashing into an Israeli armoured vehicle on the Israeli side of the southern Lebanese border. The Israelis said none of their soldiers were killed. The Hezbollah suggested two were mortally wounded.
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