Lebanon's new government agreed to a compromise policy statement on Friday that fell short of explicitly enshrining the militant group Hezbollah's role in confronting Israel but which would give all citizens the right to resist Israeli occupation or attacks.
The agreement on the compromise language came after weeks of dispute brought the government to the verge of collapse, and now paves the way for Prime Minister Tammam Salam to put his government to a vote of confidence.
Information Minister Ramzi Jreij told reporters that most ministers had agreed on a compromise statement that declares Lebanese citizens have the right to "resist Israeli occupation" and repel any Israeli attack.
The Israel-Lebanon border has been mostly quiet since Israel and Hezbollah fought in 2006, but Israeli forces still hold at least three pockets of occupied territory which are claimed by Lebanon.
"Based on the state's responsibility to preserve Lebanon's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and the security of its citizens, the government affirms the duty of the state and its efforts to liberate the Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shouba Hills and the Lebanese part of Ghajar through all legitimate means," the government statement said.
It also "affirms the right of Lebanese citizens to resist Israeli occupation and repel aggressions and recover occupied territory."
“There exists neither freedom nor sovereignty without the army, people and certainly the resistance,” Industry Minister Hajj Hassan told the Lebanese National News Agency in reaction to the agreement.
Agreement on the declaration paves the way for Salam to put his government to a vote of confidence, almost exactly a year after he was first asked to try to put together a cabinet following the resignation of his predecessor, Najib Mikati.
The declaration reflected a compromise between the Hezbollah-led political coalition, which sought to guarantee Hezbollah's right to fight Israel and maintain its weapons arsenal, with political opponents who sought to disarm the resistance movement.
Tensions between Hezbollah and its opponents inside Lebanon have been sharply heightened by the civil war in neighboring Syria, where Hezbollah fighters have been battling alongside President Bashar al-Assad.
The deal was reached a few hours after Israel's army fired tank rounds and artillery into southern Lebanon in what it called retaliation for a bomb that targeted its soldiers patrolling the border. No injuries were reported on either side.
Israeli forces shell southern Lebanon
Israeli occupation forces on Friday fired shells into southern Lebanon after explosives were allegedly detonated near an army patrol along the border, state news reported.
Lebanon's National news agency said at least six shells struck areas between the villages of Kfar Shouba and Helta in southeast Lebanon, near the occupied Shebaa Farms.
Hezbollah's Al Manar television station said the shelling caused a field to catch fire, but reported no injuries.
The attack was likely in response to an alleged bombing targeting occupation forces on the border.
On 25 January Israeli warplanes attacked targets linked to Hezbollah on the Lebanese-Syrian border. Hezbollah pledged to respond to the Israeli attack "at the appropriate time and place."
The January attack was the first of its kind since the end of the 2006 Lebanese-Israeli war.
On 9 December, Israeli forces launched more than 30 artillery shells after saying two rockets were launched towards Israel from Lebanon.
A couple of days later, 16 December, a Lebanese soldier opened fire on an Israeli soldier, killing him. That was the most dangerous incident since 2010 when an Israeli soldier killed two Lebanese soldiers and a journalist.
In the Israeli-Lebanese war in 2006, 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis were killed. Most of the Lebanese who died were civilians. Most casualties were Israeli army.
From 2006 until today rockets from Lebanon have been launched against Israeli targets but anonymous groups have claimed responsibility.
Clashes in Tripoli kill 9, injure 60
Renewed clashes between rival neighborhoods in the northern city of Tripoli Saturday raised the death toll to nine as dozens of families to fled to safer areas.
After a brief lull in the morning, sniper and mortal fire picked up again between Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, the Daily Star reported.
Mortars struck several homes along Syria Street, which separates the warring factions, prompting dozens of families to flee their homes for safer areas of the city.
The Army blocked the highway linking Tripoli to the northern region due to intensive sniper fire as soldiers continued to respond to sources of gunfire. Soldiers also blocked the Talaat al-Omari road and Al-Biqar-al-Jabal Street with barbed wire.
Schools and universities remained closed, with a few shops in unaffected areas remaining open. Armored vehicles were seen patrolling the deserted city streets.
Fighting erupted Thursday following the fatal shooting of Jabal Mohsen resident Walid Barhoum. Among those killed in clashes was a 10-year-old girl.
Militants from Bab al-Tabbaneh, a predominantly-Sunni neighborhood known for its support for the armed Syrian opposition, have engaged in multiple rounds of fighting with Alawite fighters from Jabal Mohsen, which enjoys strong links to the Syrian government.
The three-day clashes mark the 20th round of fighting in Tripoli since the Syrian conflict began in March of 2011.
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