In recent days, Lebanese opposition leaders have been calling for an escalation in the current protest, and for a move to "the second phase" of actions to topple the Lebanese government headed by Prime Minister Fuad Al-Siniora. The sit-down demonstration in the heart of Beirut, which was declared by Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah on November 30, 2006, is continuing.
The past few days have seen rioting and clashes between supporters of the opposition and supporters of the March 14 Forces. On December 3, a young Shi'ite man was killed in an exchange of gunfire between supporters of the two camps. The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is known to be close to Hizbullah, called him "the first shahid [martyr] of the National Unity Intifada.'" The Syrian government daily Al-Thawra has begun using the term "intifada" for the Beirut demonstration.
On December 6, 2006, the Lebanese National Opposition issued a communiqué calling for participation in a mass rally on Sunday, December 10, at 3 PM. The communiqué read: "The leadership of the national opposition is calling on its supporters... to prepare for new forms and ways of protest and nonviolent expression. We call on you to participate in a large popular rally in the heart of Beirut, at Al-Shuhada Square and Riyadh Al-Sulh Square, next Sunday at 3 PM. May this day be an historic and decisive day, a day on which the deaf ears and the blind eyes are opened and the legitimate demands answered..." 
Opposition sources announced that the opposition would wait until the weekend, and if there was no breakthrough via negotiations, it would escalate the pressure and use additional means to achieve its aims.  The Christian general Michel Aoun, head of the Free Patriotic Movement which is part of the Lebanese opposition, threatened to notch up the protest: "If the prime minister and the camp he heads insists on sole control of the regime, we will escalate the popular pressure, paralyze the government, and bring it to a state of deep unconsciousness..." 
The call to escalate the protest followed reports about the failure of an initiative proposed by the Lebanese opposition, that was sanctioned by Hizbullah Secretary-General Nasrallah. 
In addition, last week Arab leaders expressed apprehensions about the situation in Lebanon, which they felt was deteriorating to the point of civil war. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said that "the demonstrations are extremist and likely to lead to the destruction of Lebanon." Saudi Arabia, on its part, called to "keep large-scale civil war away from Lebanon" and to return to dialogue. Leaders from the Lebanese opposition received messages that "Saudi Arabia sees the toppling of the government through street demonstrations as a 'red line' and something that it cannot agree to." Further, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa visited Lebanon in an attempt to mediate and to try to bring about a solution to the crisis, but to no avail. 
The following are excerpts from the media about the crisis:
*Revolutionary Guards Paper: Nasrallah Will Triumph and Will Honor the Islamic World With Another Victory
An article published in the Iranian paper Sobh-e Sadeq, the mouthpiece of Iran's Supreme leader Khamenei which is distributed to Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps and security apparatuses, stated: "Today the American, French, Saudi, and even Israeli officials have close and solid relations with Lebanese PM [Fuad Al-Siniora], and by means of these relations they veto most decisions taken by [Lebanese] President [Emile Lahoud]... Nevertheless, it is reasonable to assume that Hizbullah's success in holding early elections or changing the composition of the political [structure] of the Lebanese government will mean... the defeat of Western policy and the Zionist regime in Lebanon... In other words, the composition of the national unity government in Lebanon will be part of the political achievements of a victory by the [Islamic] resistance [i.e. Hizbullah] over the Zionist regime - [that is], a step towards the elimination of the West's plans to stop Hizbullah via the [U.N.] Security Council, and the creation of a symmetrical equation in the government echelons in Lebanon...
"Nevertheless, Hizbullah and the groups that are its partners in the alliance have various options [for gaining] control of this government, or to bring about a change in it. The minimal [option] among these was boycotting the government that is playing the role of the enemy camp in Lebanon. Undoubtedly, in the coming days or weeks, Lebanon can expect changes that are broader and more serious. The victor in this arena will be the player who knows the value of opportunity, and will, with policy and reliance on the infinite divine power, rejoice and honor the Islamic world with another victory. Do not doubt that this winning player will be none other than Hassan Nasrallah." 
Reactions by Hizbullah and the Lebanese Opposition
*Hizbullah and the Lebanese Opposition: The "Militias of the Regime" and the Al-Mustaqbal Faction Murdered the Young Shi'ite
Following the December 3 death of a young Shi'ite man in clashes between Hizbullah activists and supporters of the March 14 Forces, the National Lebanese Opposition issued a communiqué blaming the "militias of the [Lebanese] regime" for his murder. The communiqué accused "the armed groups belonging to the militias of the regime and the ruling faction," saying that their aim was to "spark civil war and anarchy." It continued, "The forces of the Lebanese National Opposition... undertake a commitment to the Lebanese people to continue with their national stand, and will see that loyalty to the blood of the martyr will be manifested in a continuation of the actions and of the popular mass presence in Al-Shuhada Square and Riyahd Al-Sulh Square..." 
Also, on December 4, 2006, the Hizbullah television station Al-Manar claimed that "elements in the armed militia of Al-Mustaqbal faction had murdered the young Ahmad Mahmoud, who was participating in the sit-down demonstration in the heart of Beirut, and wounded a number of others..." 
*Hizbullah: Al-Mustaqbal is Distributing Weapons to Civilians
Muhammad Ra'd, chairman of the Hizbullah faction in the Lebanese parliament, called a Lebanese security apparatus a "militia." He said: "The Al-Mustaqal faction is distributing private weapons to some civilians who seek vengeance." He said that "the militia of the '[intelligence] department' [of the Lebanese internal security forces] was giving instructions to this faction." 
*Daily Lebanese Paper Close to Hizbullah: The Fate of the Government Has Been Decreed
In an editorial, Ibrahim Al-Amin, editor of the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar which is close to Hizbullah, wrote: "As far as [the opposition supporters] in the streets are concerned, the discussion on the fate of the [Al-Siniora] government is a matter that [has already been] decreed... The defense of this government [will be] very difficult, even if it obtains Arab or international help. This government's best possible situation will be no better than that of Mahmoud Abbas's rule in Palestine, or that of the Al-Maliki government in Iraq...
"The opposition forces are continuing to discuss their work plan [which includes] increasing the number of participants in the sit-down strike; diverse participation of [elements] from all regions and from all institutions [in Lebanon]; and setting a plan for the second phase in a form that will assure an increase in the scope of participation, in both the number [of participants] and in the regions [where the actions take place]. This [will also] take into account the possibility that the crisis will continue for at least two months... Despite the messages of intimidation that have been received about the possibility of dangerous complications, with aspects of civil conflict [i.e. messages from Egypt and Saudi Arabia warning against exacerbation of the conflict], the opposition forces see no escape from continuing with the actions until logical conclusions are reached..." 
*Opposition Forces: Accept Now - In the Next Phase, We Won't Even Agree to Sharing Power
The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar quoted opposition sources as saying that "they had not taken to the streets in order to return empty-handed. Thus, they will remain there until the end of the term of President Emile Lahoud, if the ruling majority does not obey the will of the people and agree to partnership with the others in a national unity government..."  The paper also quoted sources in the opposition leadership, who stressed that "the opposition is now in the first stage, in which it agrees to partnership in decision[-making] together with the ruling faction. But after [this] period, it won't even agree to share power... 
*Hassan Nassrallah: "Last Call to Create a National Unity Government Before the Demands Change"
In a December 7, 2006 speech, Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nassrallah said: "We in the opposition are insisting on our demand and on our goal, which is the establishment of a real national government - because rule by a single group has always led Lebanon to an impasse. Lebanon cannot exist except through agreement and cooperation... We want a national unity government whose decisions are Lebanese and whose will is Lebanese, [since only] such [a government] will guarantee the security, stability and unity of Lebanon... We are opposed to any foreign patronage, whether by an enemy, friend or brother... I say on behalf of Hizbullah: We are in favor of securing one-third [of the government seats] for any Lebanese opposition, since we believe in partnership and cooperation, and do not believe in division. We feel no apprehension [about this], because we have no international or regional obligations which we want to pass by means of a majority [vote]." 
Reactions by the March 14 Forces
*The Coup Aims to Subject Lebanon to the Iran-Syria Alliance
In a communiqué, the March 14 Forces claimed that what was taking place in Lebanon today was the implementation of an order from Damascus: "Lebanon is undergoing today a highly dangerous phase, that began with the implementation of an operational order to carry out a coup... The aim of this coup is to destroy [Lebanon's] national independence and to subject Lebanon to the Iran-Syria alliance...
"The March 14 Forces announce their determination to resist this coup, and to defend Lebanon.. and call to all for cohesion and unity in the face of this Syrian attack - the zero hour of which was set by [Syrian President] Bashar Al-Assad on August 15 ...  The March 14 Forces emphasize to the Lebanese that the [Syrian] regime of hegemony and control will not return, and that the Lebanese government is standing fast, and is staying, and will continue [to rule] with the force of legitimacy, constitution, the confidence of the people, the support of the Arab brethren, and the help of the entire international community." 
Lebanese Communications Minister Marwan Hamada said that the December 1 demonstration by supporters of Hizbullah and of the Lebanese opposition was "an Iranian Shi'ite demonstration." He said: "This is a demonstration by the ayatollahs and the officers of the Syrian intelligence apparatus in Damascus... 
*Al-Mustaqbal: Hizbullah "Is the Only Lebanese Element With a Militia"
In response to Al-Manar's blaming the "Al-Mustaqbal militia" for the December 3 death of the young Shi'ite, Al-Mustaqbal issued a communiqué claiming that only one element in Lebanon had a militia: "The Al-Mustaqbal faction emphasizes that... it has no armed organization... Everyone in Lebanon and in the Arab and Islamic world knows which is the only Lebanese element with a militia; which is the only element with an armed organization; which is the only element whose leaders take pride in having weapons - headed by '20,000 missiles'; which is the only Lebanese element whose entire funding and weaponry come from abroad; and also which is the only element that has security areas and prevents the legal state apparatuses from entering them..." 
*Hariri: The Crisis is the Result of a Plan by Syria Under Iranian Protection
In an interview with Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Al-Mustaqbal chairman Sa'd Al-Hariri warned of civil war in Lebanon, and said that the current crisis was the result of a plan by Syria, under Iranian protection: "What is happening now is a genuine coup scheme against Lebanese legitimacy... The clock cannot be turned back, [and we will not agree] to a plan that seeks to bring about the re-infiltration [of Lebanon] by the Syrian intelligence [apparatus] and its satellites. The essence of the crisis that Lebanon is now undergoing [lies] in the existence of a Syrian plan that receives protection from Iran, and aims to again take over Lebanese legitimacy. The operational orders were issued at the end of Israel's war on Lebanon. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said unequivocally on August 15  that what was needed was to change the political equation in Lebanon and to topple the government of Fuad Al-Siniora..." 
Along with an explicit Syrian statement by Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Al-Miqdad, on Syria's support for Hizbullah and its partners in the Lebanese opposition, the Syrian government press has published numerous articles expressing support for the demand by Hizbullah and the Lebanese opposition to topple the Al-Siniora government.  The articles assured the Lebanese people that it was not standing alone in its battle to accomplish this, and that ultimately it was the people that would decide the current crisis - as had happened in Iran, Iraq, Palestine, and many other countries.
*"The Lebanese People is Not Alone in the Battle"
An article in the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra stated: "Events in history have proven that the one who relies on his people will undoubtedly triumph, even if it takes time.... It has all gone too far, and so the people in Lebanon will emerge with a roar, a shout, and a challenge - and this time for the sake of Lebanon's freedom, sovereignty, independence, and Arabism, for the sake of its national unity, and against the Zionist and American invaders and against their internal agents [i.e. the March 14 Forces]... The Lebanese people, headed by its honorable national forces, understands that it does not [stand] alone in its battle. The supporters aiding it are deployed across the entire nation, and it will find a [strong] echo amongst all free men and men of honor in the world." 
*Insistence on Ruling Against the Will of the People Is Unacceptable
In an editorial, the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra wrote: "What is happening now in Lebanon is the rectification of a mistake... Insistence on remaining [in power] while millions want it to leave is unacceptable!... No one can reject the principle of a national unity government, and participation in Lebanese decision-making. Perhaps calling for help and begging for support from the U.S., the U.K, and other countries is only an expression of the crisis in this faction [i.e. the March 14 Forces]. The regime's buttressing itself with external elements because of [its] weakness in the domestic arena is the best possible recipe for toppling the government!" 
*The People Will Decide, As Happened in Iran and in Other Countries
Muhammad Kheir Al-Jamali, columnist for the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra, wrote: "The Al-Siniora government has still not grasped two basic facts in the developments in Lebanon's situation - or does not want to be convinced of them... The first [fact] is that arrogant insistence on holding power alone [is useless] - and is [also] against the will of the people, which is being manifested today by the Intifada in the streets and squares of Beirut... The second fact is the mistaken reliance on the support of external intervention forces...
"Whatever the arrogant stubbornness of the Al-Siniora government... the deciding say in the political struggle going on in the Lebanese arena will be the people, which will decide to topple the government of corruption and embassies that holds the regime all by itself. This is because there is no going back from the decision of the people. Anyone who does not understand this fact must look at the history of the revolutions of the peoples, [such as the revolution] in Iran, and also what is taking place today in Iraq, Palestine, Latin America, South Africa, and many other countries.  "
 Website of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon, http://www.moqawama.org/__print.php?filename=20061206234554, December 6, 2006
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 6, 2006.
 Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 7, 2006.
 Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 7, 2006; Al-Nahar (Lebanon), December 7, 2006; Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 7, 2006; website of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon, http://www.moqawama.org/__print.php?filename=20061207093331, December 7, 2006. The initiative's main thrust was a call to return to negotiations regarding the opposition's demand for a third of the seats in the cabinet. An opposition representative presented the initiative to PM Fuad Al-Siniora; Al-Siniora presented a counter-initiative, under which the opposition would have one less minister than it was demanding. The opposition representative responded that "Al-Siniora's initiative could be discussed" and promised to examine it with his opposition partners. Unexpectedly, a few hours after the meeting, the opposition announced that the regime was "still insisting on its positions" and had rejected the opposition's initiative. A representative of the Lebanese government hinted that political elements might have influenced the opposition to change its mind about Al-Siniora's offer.
 Al-Intiqad (Lebanon), December 3, 2005; Al-Nahar (Lebanon), December 7, 2006.
 Sobh-e Sadeq (Iran), November 29, 2006.
 Al-Intiqad (Lebanon), December 4, 2006.
 Website of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon, http://www.ghaliboun.net, December 7, 2006. http://www.moqawama.org/_dailynews.php?filename=20061205001315, December 4, 2006.
 Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 5, 2006.
 Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 3, 2006.
 In September 2004, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud's term was extended by three years to November 2007, by the Lebanese parliament and under pressure of the Syrian regime.
 Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 4, 2006.
 Website of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon,
 In a speech on August 15, 2006, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad harshly attacked the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Al-Siniora as well as the March 14 Forces, and threatened that their "failure is imminent."
 Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 3, 2006.
 Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 3, 2006.
 Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 5, 2006.
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 6, 2006.
 Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Al-Miqdad stressed the importance of "respecting the choices of the Lebanese people [including the demand] to establish a national unity government - as manifested by the mass demonstrations in Beirut..." Al-Thawra (Syria), December 3, 2006.
 Al-Thawra (Syria), December 5, 2006.
 Al-Thawra (Syria), December 3, 2006.
 Al-Thawra (Syria), December 4, 2006.