September 10, 2006: The Israelis are willing to meet with Hamas, at the highest level, to negotiate a deal. But Hamas, so far, refuses. Apparently, Hamas believes growing support from humanitarian groups in Europe will result in pressure to break the Israeli blockade. Hamas propaganda is heavy on the hardships of the Palestinians. The Palestinians have been cut off from Western charity since Hamas took over last Spring, and refused to drop their goal of destroying Israel. Hamas is forcing Western aid providers to either drop the pressure on Hamas to change its goals, or watch Palestinians suffer more. The Israelis are allowing enough food and medicine through to prevent starvation. But without the aid payments, the Palestinian bureaucracy is still unpaid. This group made up a large segment of the Palestinian middle class, and contains the most politically active Palestinians. These people are not happy, and many of them have guns. It's a volatile situation, which even Hamas and Fatah may not be able to control.
September 9, 2006: Israel lifted its sea blockade of Lebanon. Israel plans to have all of its troops out of southern Lebanon by September 22nd, as long as enough peacekeepers arrive to at least pretend to guarantee they will stop any further Hizbollah attacks. But the Hizbollah gunmen are still there, hiding among the civilian population. When the Israelis are all gone, the confrontations between Hizbollah and the Lebanese army/UN peacekeepers will begin. In the past, Hizbollah has won all of these confrontations. This time, however, the Lebanese government and the UN says it will be different.
The buzz in Lebanon is all about a possible Hizbollah/Shia plot to oust the government and install a more pro-Syrian administration with greater Shia involvement. The rumors apparently take two forms; some suggest that Hezbollah, some Shia groups, and some pro-Syrian groups will initiate widespread "spontaneous" demonstrations demanding that the government step down, while other rumors contend that these groups are planning a coup, to oust the government by force. This particular version got going on September 5th, when a Lebanese Army convoy traveling between Beirut and Sidon was attacked by an IED. Casualties included 3-4 killed and about a half-dozen wounded, among them a lieutenant-colonel, who may have been the object of an assassination attempt. The injured officer, Lt. Col. Samir Shehade, is a police intelligence expert, and has been investigating Syrian backed murders of Lebanese politicians. Shehade played a key role in the recent arrest of four pro-Syrian generals, and the investigation of pro-Hizbollah officers in the army and police. The IED was intended for Shehade, and the attack took place in Hizbollah controlled territory. Normally, a guy like Shehade would not be down there. But the Lebanese army is moving in as part of the peace deal with Israel. Hizbollah does not like this, or all the talk about disarming Hizbollah. When Syrian troops were in Lebanon, Hizbollah had a lot more freedom of action. While most Lebanese support Hizbollah fighting Israel, most Lebanese also support disarming Hizbollah.