BBC,  17 July 2006, Lebanon’s stock market has closed along with much of the rest of the country’s economy as Israel’s air and sea blockade continues. The government said that damage from Israeli military strikes has already cost its economy about $500m (

Share slump

Lebanese shares had slumped by 14% last week, with the country’s largest company, real estate giant Solidere, particularly badly hit.

Solidere was established by the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri to rebuild much of Beirut after the 1975-1990 civil war.

Although saddled with massive foreign debts, the Lebanese economy has been growing in recent years and had been expected to reach an annual growth rate of about 4-5% this year.

Economists are now suggesting that the economy could actually contract if the Israeli-Hezbollah confrontation continues, or widens to involve other Middle East states.

Much of the country’s business infrastructure is currently out of action.

The airport has been repeatedly bombed, along with a number of key bridges and roads, including the main highway linking Beirut and Damascus in Syria.

Beirut’s port is blockaded, meaning that any imports or exports will have to find more expensive alternative routes, probably via Syria.

Lebanese people salvage belongings from bomb crater

Lebanese people say their economy has been badly damaged

BBC News reporter Martin Patience said the greatest damage appears to have been inflicted on the Lebanese economy.

"People are saying that these attacks have been focused on hitting the Lebanese government in the wallet."

The UK government has now started evacuating its citizens from Lebanon, with plans in place to move up to 10,000 Britons.

"I have put myself and my family on the British Embassy’s list, but I am not going anywhere," said Mr Karam, who was born in the UK to Lebanese parents, but moved to Beirut in 1992.

"My family is settled here and the country would have to disintegrate for me to leave."