Here are some television pictures from Lebanon’s New TV which has reported this to be exclusive footage of the takeover of Future Television this morning. It appears to be a well-coordinated and strategic attack on the infrastructure of the Hariris, a prominent Sunni family that owns the station and heads the majority bloc in parliament. The station is now off the air and militants have also set fire to a newspaper owned by the Hariri family, known as Al Mustaqbal. A second TV station owned by the group–a 24 hour news channel– has also been taken off the air, culminating in a three-pronged strategy to shut down the communication network of Hariri’s pro-USA Future Movement. Here’s what one of the channels looked like after the attack, displaying “no signal” in the upper right corner:

The top image of black-clad militants holding down a rooftop is eerily reminiscent of 1970s Beirut, when militiamen first took up positions in high rise buildings. One man even points a bazooka at the notorious Holiday Inn, which remains a battered shell from the previous civil war. The two gave journalists from New TV a tour of their bounty.

They carry the flag of the Amal party–attached to backpack on the left.

Amal is allied to Hezbollah and both parties are vehemently opposed to the Hariris’ relationship with the West. They say the US has pressured the Hariri government to attack Hezbollah and thus claim their existence has been threatened. But a spokesman for the opposition movement, which is led by Hezbollah, has warned that Hezbollah itself has yet to deploy its well trained troops on the streets of Beirut. This lends credibility to the theory that the opposition is using merely this street war as a symbolic show of force, that its militants are so well armed that even its smaller groups like Amal can defeat the pro-Western Sunnis. If anything, today’s events have proved this to be true. Despite fierce rocket and machine gun fire exchanges that continued throughout the night, the Sunni militants have failed to protect their most valuable communications assets. It is a devastating blow and if the intent was short-term muscle flexing, the consequences are likely to be long term tensions and a burning desire for revenge.

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Habib Battah
Habib Battah is an investigative journalist and founder of the news site Battah has covered Lebanon and the Middle East for over 15 years and teaches journalism and media studies at the American University of Beirut. He is a contributor to Monocle, The Guardian, BBC World, Al Jazeera and others, a former fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University and two-time recipient of the Samir Kassir Press Freedom Award. Battah's investigative work was recently recognized for outstanding local reporting by the Columbia University Oakes Award for Environmental Reporting. Battah earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.A. in Near East Studies and Journalism from New York University.


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