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EDITIONS
Crossing Continents Wednesday, 3 March, 1999, 20:23 GMT
Lebanon - still divided after all these years
Meriel Beattie on disputed ground in the 'security zone' of Southern Lebanon
In this edition of Crossing Continents, Meriel Beattie visits Lebanon to report on the conflict that has been called "Israel's Vietnam."

Listen to the programme in full

Since 1978, Israeli forces have occupied what they call a 'Security Zone' in Southern Lebanon, arguing that they must do so to protect their Northern border. Local people are caught in the middle, with some joining the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA) while others have taken up arms against the occupation. The zone has now suffered 20 years of grim guerilla war, turning the area into one of the world's biggest no-man's-lands.

Now, as more and more young Israeli soldiers fall victims to attacks by Hizbollah and other Islamic guerilla forces, the tide of opinion in Israel is turning. Politicians, commentators and, most vocally, ordinary mothers, are saying the country should withdraw from Lebanon. Meriel Beattie meets the people living on both sides of the conflict, including the Lebanese villagers who have somehow managed to survive in the ghost towns of the occupied zone. Preoccupying everyone, wherever they live, is the question of what might happen if Israel does withdraw.

Cranes and construction sites are springing up all over Beirut
Meriel then travels North to the Lebanese capital, Beirut, to report on the city's artistic and cultural life. Physical reconstruction is now well under way, with flashy new buildings springing up across the city to replace the bomb-damaged and bullet-scarred relics of the Civil War.

Meriel in one of Beirut's many thriving marketplaces
Many Beirutis say their city is recreating the fast-moving economy and vibrant nightlife that once earned it the title"the Paris of the Middle East". But will it again recover its reputation as the region's cultural capital? Meriel talks to a musician, a writer and a filmmaker to find out - and in the process discovers how poetry can save your life.

See also:

13 Oct 98 | From Our Own Correspondent
11 Oct 98 | Middle East
24 May 98 | Middle East
01 May 98 | Despatches
15 Aug 98 | Middle East
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