Wife of Presidential Aspirant Assaulted
On July 17, the wife of Johhny Abdo, a former Lebanese intelligence chief who is widely regarded as having the backing of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri to replace Emile Lahoud as president, was beaten by two unidentified men as she was taking a walk in the marina area of Dbaye. Abdo, who also served as ambassador to France in the 1980s before retiring and moving to Paris, had returned to Lebanon with his wife in early July to attend the funeral of his brother, Elie. Abdo said that his wife, who stayed behind for a few days after his return to Paris, had previously received packages of photos and cassettes intended to cause "domestic family troubles" (a common form of blackmail among Lebanon's political elite).
A cabinet decision to ban quarrying outside of the anti-Lebanon mountain range in eastern Lebanon and allow the import of crushed rock from Syria threatens to devastate local Lebanese contractors, while benefiting Damascus and lining the pockets of its allies in the Lebanese government.
Lebanese construction contractors have complained that the decision will drive them out of business. "The prices of gravel and sand products will triple," said Fouad Khazen, the head of the Lebanese Contractors Association (LCA). "We prefer to cease operations rather than suffer further losses." "We are setting a dangerous precedent here by legally allowing and promoting cheaper imports of locally produced goods," said Fouad Daher, the head of the Engineers Union in north Lebanon.
When the newspaper Al-Liwaa published an article alleging that a cabinet minister close to President Lahoud was profiting from the import of rock and sand from Syria, the offending journalist, Amer Mashmoushi, was promptly placed under investigation for libeling the president, a crime punishable by up to two years in prison.
Abdullah Shreidi Dies of Gunshot Wounds
Abdullah Shreidi, the leader of the radical Islamist group Esbat al-Nour in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp, died on July 16 of gunshot wounds he sustained in an assassination attempt by members of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement in May. At the insistence of Fatah officials, he was buried outside the camp, in Sirob cemetery on the southern outskirts of Sidon. Most observers say that Esbat al-Nour will likely merge back into Esbat al-Ansar, a group founded by Abdullah's father, Hisham Shreidi. The elder Shreidi was assassinated by Fatah in 1991.