Rasha Salti

Rasha Salti is based in Beirut.

July 28, 2006

Lebanon Siege: Day 3

Today was a bad day. The shelling started from the morning countrywide and has not let until now. It was particularly brutal in the south. Marwaheen, a village in the south that had been under siege was showered with leafets from airplanes urging its inhabitants to flee because it would be bombed to the ground two hours later. As people gathered up stuff and began to flee, a few were not spared from the shelling, 12 children perished, burned alive on the road walking out of the village. A group amongst the fleeing villagers panicked and saught refuge at a UNIFIL (UN peacekeeping force) base on their road out of the village run by French army volunteers, but they were refused shelter and turned back. I don't know how unprecedented this is but it is certainly shocking.
Nearly all Lebanese ports were shelled today, Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon, Tyre, Amshit and Jounieh. Christian areas are not being spared. The alternative road to Syria (via Tripoli and Homs) was shelled. Bridges in the north of the country and the south of the country were shelled and rendered unusable.

Tonight the shelling is again focused on the southern suburbs, Haret Hreyk and Bir el-Abed. The first neighborhood is where the headquarters of Hezbollah are located. They have been targetted several times and there is extensive damage. The leadership has not been harmed. A great number of the inhabitants have been evacuated, but the afternoon shelling targetted residential areas. I am up, anxious, writing. As if it served a purpose of sorts.

Foreign diplomatic missions are making plans to evacuate their nationals. They had planned to evacuate people by sea, but after today's shelling of the ports, they may have to rethink their strategy. Should I evacuate? Does one turn their back on a "historic" station in the Arab-Israeli conflict? If there is no cause that animates me, how do I endure this? (I could not give two rats' ass about the Iranian nuclear bomb or Hezbollah's negotiating power). I was shamed this morning for having these thoughts... And now, at 1:30 am, as the Israeli airplanes fill up my sky, I am writing them again.

There was much diplomatic activity today, almost all of it secured moral high ground for Israel to proceed with "scorched earth" policy, re-occupy the south to secure its own borders, and disarm Hezbollah after a fatal blow. The meeting at the UN security council yesterday provided Israel with a green light to pretty much do whatever it wished in this country. (My favorite was Bolton, who was focused on the necessity to "take down" Khaled Masha'al -Hamas representative- in Damascus.)
Then there was an emergency Arab League meeting that pretty much determined that the peace plan of the Quartet was defunct and the region was at the brink of an explosion and that they will call for a UN security council meeting at once. If international law was not respected, then the Arab League would resort to other means (and "arms" was not eliminated as an option). Did the Arabs declare war? We don't know, did they intimate war? It would be the most prudish, skiddish, repressed intimation ever in the history of wars.

For now it seems that the battle will take about two to three weeks to wane. There are stated aims and they are within the paradigm of 1559, namely that Hezbollah should give up its arms, and the southern Lebanese border with Israel be secured by the Lebanese army. Hezbollah are not suicidal, unlike the Bin Ladens of the world and other radicals, they want to negotiate a bigger share of the pie in Lebanon. They are aware that in the final count, they will have to give up something, so until a cease-fire seems like an amenable solution to them, they need to register as many victories as possible. The rockets that can reach Haifa is one such victory, because Haifa is an important petro-chemical base in Israel. The Israeli Patriot missiles planted on Haifa that seem not to work are also another small victory for Hezbollah. The drowned warship is another victory.

Israel's strategy is not only to dismember this country and cripple communication, but also to challenge internal support for Hezbollah. People like me for example, complaining about how my life is a small hell and I can't take it anymore, yesterday and maybe a little bit today, well I was an agent of Israel. I was executing the Israeli strategy to break the spirit of the valiant Arabs. In fact the Israeli ambassador to the UN quoted two Lebanese MPs citing how little support for Hezbollah there is in Lebanon. This is the rhetoric. But in point of fact it is true, that Israel has not spared an area at this stage, whether Hezbollah stronghold or not and they want to make us pay for housing Hezbollah in our parliament. Maybe they prefer an Iraqi scenario?

Forgive me if I am losing my mind. I need to end this long diary entry. I would like to end it by congratulating the president of Iran, to whom a nuclear bomb (like the president of Pakistan) is by far more important than his people walking barefoot, illiterate and hungry. But the kind and generous president of Iran "assured" the world that if Israel hit Syria, Iran would show them hell. Never mind Lebanon burning!

Until Day 4 of the Siege.

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