Beirut's Destroyed Southern SuburbMy colleague Hussein walked into the news room and said Hezbollah is organizing a tour in the southern suburbs adding that whoever wants to go should be at Hadi Nasrallah's street at noon.
I took a flak jacket and a helmet then went to Hadi Nasrallah street and the closer we go to the end of the road the more destruction we saw. As I left the car and looked around, Haret Hreik looked more like an area destroyed by an earthquake rather than by aerial bombardment.
A Hezbollah member took our names on a piece of papers then asked us to wait until his colleagues come to take us on the tour in nearby streets. It is not a good feeling when standing in an area that is bombed almost daily and is few hundred meters from the "security square" that used to house Hezbollah's headquarters and the home of the group's leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah until all its buildings were flattened.
At 12:05 several Hezbollah members, all in civilian clothes with blue or beige caps and carrying walkie talkies, showed up and asked us to follow them. Walking in a sea of rubble we heard Israeli warplanes flying overhead and I began to get worried since there is no place to hide if the area comes under attack.
Looking at buildings turned into piles of debris doesn't encourage a person to go hide inside such structures if bombings starts. A bridge that passes overhead was directly hit at intersections.
As we walked for about 500 meters I saw a sign that read "Al-Nour Radio," one of the main broadcasting arms of Hezbollah. Although the sign was still there, the building where the offices used to be does not exist any more. Few residents were seen in the area since most of them evacuated shortly after the war began on July 12.
Fearing possible looting, Hezbollah members were making sure to stop strangers and checking what they were doing in the area. Journalists were given the right to move wherever they want but the only prohibited thing was taking pictures that show the guerrillas faces.
As I walked around I remembered a similar tour in the Iraqi city of Fallujah in April 2004 when it was under siege and bombings by U.S. troops. Myself, the only reporter, and several other Arab photographers drove through the destroyed city and feared be bombing as U.S. helicopters flew overhead.
It was the last time I visited Fallujah and it looked terrible compared to what it was few months ago. In November, 2004, U.S. and Iraqi troops took over the city and since then
After nearly half an hour in Haret Hreik, Hezbollah official and former legislator Mohammed Birjawi showed up and give a statement saying Israel is only strong when it comes to attacking civilians.
Few minutes later we finished our tour and started walking back to our cars, the planes came overhead again. "Walk under the bridge," shouted a Hezbollah member in apparent fear of a possible raid.
We all did walk under the damaged bridge until we reached the car and drove away quickly.
Most of the journalists seem to share with me the same feeling. We wanted to be out of the area as soon as possible.
August 14, 2006