Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Francois al-Hajj assassinated

A wonderful man died today.

General Francois al-Hajj was a son of South Lebanon. He hailed from Rmeish, a Maronite village close to the border with Israel where his father Elias and his mother still live.
I first met him in 1980 in southern Lebanon when he was a liaison officer to the UN peacekeeping force. He greeted almost everyone with a ready smile, a fine wit, and a generous disposition. He would move mountains to help a friend--"ghaali wa-talabat rakhees" you are valued and what you have asked is nothing. In those days he patiently taught me his beloved Lebanese proverbs, and he also enjoyed beating me at backgammon. He was one of a few people who opened their hearts to me and taught me about Lebanon in the midst of the civil war, and almost all of them are now dead. Francois was only 54 when he was blown up by car bomb in Baabda on December 12, 2007.

He directed the attack on the Nahr al-Bared camp last summer, but my hunch is his death must be understood as one of the string of assassinations intended to sabotage the creation of a viable, independent government in Lebanon. General al-Hajj was widely expected to become the next army commander to replace Michel Suleiman, who is expected to become president.

This is a very sad day for Lebanon, in addition to being a horrible day for the family of Francois al-Hajj.


Des said...

I too am greatly saddened to hear of Francois' untimely death. I remember him too from those earlier times and recall with affection his ability to sing a Lebanese song especially one made popular by Farouz.
I met him again at his headquarters in August 2006 when he was in the throes of committing the Army to reoccupying Al Junub the South - in strength.
One assumed that there was to be a new beginning and not an end.

MaryOGrady said...

I am so sorry for your loss. Francois al-Hajj sounds like a wonderful friend.

Anonymous said...

I can't seem to find any other way to tell you how much I enjoyed and profitted from your lecture at Northwestern. I watched it on C-span yesterday. Thank you, Kate

I'm sorry for the loss of your friend, Francois.

arn said...

Thank you so very much Kate, and may 2008 bring happier news for us all.