Monday, July 31, 2006

Qana, The Wounded Qana.

The first thing I did when I woke up today was watch television to see what was going on. Tuning between LBC, Manar, NBN, Future, New TV, Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya there were no major reports other than air raids here and there during the night.
But about half an hour after breaking news began with reports from the southern town of Qana. A building bombed by Israelis and many people are buried under the rubble, the stations said.
More than 50 people, many of them women and children, were killed.
The strike occurred at around 1 a.m. which could mean that they were sleeping when the war planes hit.
The bombing brought condemnation from throughout the world and left Lebanese in shock as they saw bodies of children being extracted from under the rubble by members of the Lebanese Red Cross.
It brought back the memories of the April 18, 1996 when Israeli bombing killed more than 100 people in a U.N. base in the same town.
The night before I drove around the city but Beirut was not the one I know. It looked much different compared with when I was last here. The streets were almost deserted and most people preferred to stay home because of the fighting and bombing on both side of the border between Israel and Hezbollah.
Driving through Gemayzeh street on a Saturday night is usually a nightmare. It could take more than half an hour to drive few hundred meters where restaurants and pubs are usually packed.
It was not the same yesterday.
Most of the shops were closed apart from a very small number and the street was empty taking only a minute or two to cross.
Downtown solidere area is now a bit busy during the day but a ghost city at night. Hamra street is not any better.
Lebanon declared a day of mourning on Monday for the victims of Qana.
There was a nice song about the Lebanese capital that says:
Oh our beloved Beirut, what is wrong with you.
Beirut oh Beirut please don't bow down.
As I write the blog now, Israeli warplanes are flying a low-altitude over Beirut. It makes me wonder where they will strike but I hope they won't.

Bassem Mroue
Beirut July 31, 2006
12:25 a.m.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

From Baghdad To Beirut

Heading to Baghdad International Airport on Thursday morning, I thought it was a quiet day in the city. The airport road, once known "death road," was not very crowded and the trip was fine.
Later I knew it was not. As I was at the airport, four explosions occurred in the central neighborhood of Karradah killing at least 32 people and wounding many others. This is Baghdad where hardly a day passes without dozens of people losing their lives, in markets, coffee shops, mosques or even in their homes.
Giving my passport to the immigration officers, he immediately looked at me and asked: "How is Lebanon?"
Iraqi Airways flight to Damascus took about 90 minutes and it would have been great had a young boy sitting in front of me not vomited near me. Poor boy, he got sick for it was the first time he rides an airplane.
From Damascus' International Airport to the city's downtown, pictures of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah were everywhere. In cars, on billboards, shops and the group's yellow flag was flying in most parts of the city.
Many people were buying T-Shirts with Nasrallah's pictures written on it "The Truthful Promise," the name of the July 12 operation in which the group captured two Israeli soldiers and triggered the current war.
The next morning I left with a Syrian taxi driver toward the Masnaa border point and as we crossed into Lebanon, the man said: "This road is very dangerous until we reach Bekfaya." Few kilometers from the border I saw the first signs of the war, a bridge destroyed earlier by an Israeli air raid.
The road we used was not the one we normally take toward Beirut that passes through Dahr al-Baydar because it has been closed since Israeli warplanes destroyed the highest bridge in the Middle East.
As we drove, burnt buses and trucks were on both sides of the road. There were many trucks carrying vegetables and fruits on the way and every time we over took a truck I wondered if it will be hit.
The driver, who has been coming every day to Beirut since the war began, pointed at buses or trucks saying which day they were hit.
As we arrived at the coast, cruise ships could be seen taking foreigners from Beirut's main port. Warships were guarding them.
As I got close to home I saw the new light house that was damaged by Israeli warships two weeks ago.
But the worst and saddest thing I saw is the large number of displaced people who were in public schools and gardens.
They, like all Lebanese, hope a cease fire will be reached soon so that they can go back to their homes.
My Lebanon looked very sad and wounded compared to how I left it a month earlier.
Bassem Mroue
Beirut July 29, 2006
8 p.m.