Just as Gaza has fallen to Iranian proxy rule via Hamas, so too Lebanon is now under the direct influence of Tehran after Beirut's fall to Hizballah at the weekend, declared Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon on Sunday.
Lebanon "is controlled by this terror organization and its government has become irrelevant," Ramon was quoted as saying at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. "The notion that there is another government apart from Hizbullah is entirely fictitious."
Earlier in the day, Hizballah began pulling its forces off the streets of Beirut, but only after the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora made major concessions to the group.
Attempting to save face, Siniora issued a tough-worded statement insisting that Lebanon could no longer tolerate an armed Hizballah. However, the group's leadership said that the outcome of its brief confrontation with government forces was a clear victory for Hizballah, and demonstrated its ability to effectively counter Western influences in the country.
Hizballah left a small number of its troops in Beirut to patrol allied Muslim neighborhoods in order to deter any possible retribution by government forces.
Meanwhile, fierce fighting broke out in other parts of the country between Hizballah and government forces on Sunday. The violence was most severe in the northern coastal city of Tripoli, where at least 12 people were killed and anther 20 were wounded.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced that Israel will watch patiently from the sidelines for the time being and not become involved in Lebanon's current troubles, despite the fact that a decisive Hizballah victory would pose a grave threat to the Jewish state.
Barak urged the international community to get involved and prevent a total Hizballah takeover.
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