With Hizbollah’s grip on mainly Muslim west Beirut tightening the crisis in Lebanon is increasingly galvanising the diplomatic community.
Hizbollah may be preparing to turn over the west to the army to avoid being labelled an occupier, but the army is struggling to maintain neutrality. The United States has already conferred with the UN Security Council and other regional governments on possible action against Hizbollah.
The Arab League is holding an emergency meeting on Sunday at the demand of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, with the “Friends of Lebanon” group meeting the following day. This comprises seven Arab nations, the League, the EU, UN, and Germany, Britain, France and Italy.
The latter two European nations are being particularly active, with speculation in Rome that the Italian-led UN peacekeeping force patrolling the border with Israel may see an extension of its role in the country.
At least 18 people have died and nearly 40 been injured in the last four days of street battles. The Lebanese government and its western and moderate Arab allies believe Iran and Syria are to blame, for having encouraged and armed Hizbollah.