From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Related Categories: Palestine | International
Beirut burns
by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Thursday Jul 20th, 2006 1:00 PM
Israel has put the clock back several decades in Lebanon. And it only took seven days, Lucy Fielder reports
What a difference a week makes. Israel has bombed Lebanon back to the civil war era. At least a couple of hundred Lebanese civilians will never see the tortuous rebuilding effort that will have to start, again, when this tiny Mediterranean country clambers back to its feet. Lives have been snuffed out in their infancy. Lebanon's south, just six years after shaking off Israeli occupation, has witnessed apocalyptic scenes that the Lebanese prayed they would never see again. Last weekend, the only battles most Lebanese were caught up in involved the World Cup, or making ends meet.

One week, and Lebanon became once again a country of cars packed with people and belongings, of suitcases, of makeshift refuges. Some Lebanese are opening their homes to the shell-shocked displaced, others locking them firmly and setting off for Syria, the mountains or abroad for those lucky enough to have dual nationality. About half a million people lived in that dusty, deserted ghost town of Al-Dahiyeh -- Beirut's mainly Shia southern suburbs. After constant pounding by Israeli forces, the sound of bombs flattening the Hizbullah stronghold, of whole apartment buildings collapsing, have become chillingly familiar in the capital. The Israelis have blockaded the city, destroying roads, bridges, the airport and port.

by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Thursday Jul 20th, 2006 1:01 PM
Lucy Fielder, in Beirut, finds that there seems to be no way out yet after a week that changed the world for the Lebanese

At dawn on Tuesday, the heart-stopping thud of Israeli bombs punctuated the close, torpid night air. Beirut's southern suburbs have been pounded, hammered and battered beyond recognition; it is anyone's guess what Israel is still finding to bomb. The morning news provided the answer -- the target was the Lebanese army. Not Hizbullah, but the defence arm that Israel and the international community are demanding take control of the southern border and help disarm Hizbullah. The international community and Israel are putting the blame squarely on a powerless government while Israel cripples the state and pins it into a corner. Hizbullah, Israel's Islamist guerrilla adversary, has so far held its nerve.

Ossama Safa, the director of the Lebanese Centre for Policy Studies predicts the crisis will get worse before it gets better. "I think it's spiralling towards escalation. Both sides are waiting to see who will blink first," he says. One reason Israel attacked the Lebanese army, he says, was to hit a broader Lebanese nerve; in this tiny, fractured country the army is a cherished symbol of unity and rehabilitation after the civil war.

Israel has thus turned the screws all week in the hope of widening the political splits in Lebanon and turning up the volume of those voices who have been calling for Hizbullah to disarm over the last year. Lebanese on both sides of the spectrum are angered by the scale of Israel's attacks, which at the time of writing had killed 277 people, nearly all of them civilians and many of them children, and ravaged the economy.

by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Thursday Jul 20th, 2006 1:02 PM
Amid the unfolding catastrophe, Serene Assir sees tensions and opportunities

"I can hear a plane, it's coming closer," said a young woman, an avowed critic of Hizbullah, on the telephone to Cairo, her voice filled with anxiety and unmistakable sadness. "A bomb. Now. It's fallen just a few streets away, in the southern suburbs. The suburbs, they are totally destroyed. It is such a shame."

Faced with multiplying civilian casualties, mass destruction of key infrastructure and the renewal of tragedy in a country wherein most people had after long years settled back into stability, Lebanon's factions appear to be at odds with each other, yet again. As soon as news of the capture by Hizbullah of two Israeli soldiers broke, the government, elected three months after the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri and almost immediately after the withdrawal of Syrian troops in May last year, announced it had no previous knowledge of Hizbullah's intentions.

Questions over the legitimacy of Hizbullah's border operation have weighed heavily through recent days over the nation's soul as Israel launched a campaign overtly designed to punish and, indeed, break not only the state it holds responsible by proxy but the morale of all the Lebanese too. On the ground, for many, the capture was justified, with Israel's aggressive retaliation inevitable. For others, including the parliamentary majority in a country whose political diversity is unparalleled in the region, the sheer level of destruction means that there is reason to argue otherwise.