Saturday, August 19, 2006
Life In Beirut After The Ceasefire
August 19, 2006
We left early Friday morning from Damascus with most of our luggage still missing. We were missing many of the supplies that we brought for our media work, along with supplies for local NGOs and the Lebanese Red Cross. Air France is still working on locating several boxes that include mini-DV cameras, communication devices, audio equipment, mini-DV cassettes, and some our personal items. We decided it was best to continue into Beirut, after two days in Damascus waiting.
We had little trouble crossing the border into Syria into Lebanon. Near the border, we saw bomb craters in the road slowing travel for refugees returning to their homes. A small bridge had been taken out and a passenger car sat crumpled up within a large bomb crater. We noticed an annihilated glass factory destroyed by bombing raid. We continued driving and noticed that one of the largest bridges in Lebanon had a large part of it destroyed by a bomb from an Israeli fighter jet. We pulled over and our driver explained how it would take over a year to repair the damage. It is hard to understand how this would hurt Hezbollah and seems that this was an attempt to create infrastructural damage that would affect all the people of Lebanon.
When we entered into southern Beirut, the roads were busy with people returning home. Several buildings had sustained significant damage. People appeared to be trying to return to normal following the aggressive Israeli offensive against Lebanon.
We arrived early at a convent housing the facilities of the Beirut-based media and arts NGO, A Step Away. People are very friendly to me and Alex. We spend most of the rest of the day visiting with locals and journalists who have been here throughout the conflict. We listened to the horror stories from the war as we are shown around Beirut. Everyone was hospitable and offered us food, tea, and coffee (with no milk, due to the Israeli bombing of a milk factory; an obvious Hezbollah stronghold).
At night, a group of independent media journalists and myself went out for food and drinks. Andrew Stern (www.digitalrailroad.net/astern) had just gotten back from a mass funeral in the southern city of Qana. His description and pictures are heartbreaking and show the true face of the war. His face shows obvious pain. It is hard to imagine how the families must have felt.
Right now, there is a fragile ceasefire under place in Lebanon. People are trying to get back to normal, but the future is uncertain. Hezbollah are the winners of the conflict, but there have been huge costs. Israel seems somewhat hesitant to honor the ceasefire. We awoke today and learned that Israel conducted a raid at the village of Bodai, in the Bekaa Valley, in Eastern Lebanon. The Israeli Defense Forces claim it was to prevent arms coming in from Syria and Iran. Hezbollah reported that they foiled the raid and pushed the soldiers out. One Israeli soldier is reported to have been killed and two others were wounded. The Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora accused Israel of violating the UN-brokered ceasefire (Resolution 1701). The end of the conflict is still to be seen.
Tomorrow, myself and a group of independent journalists will travel to South Lebanon to visit Bent Jbeyl and other areas which have sustained some of the worst damage of the conflict. We hope to interview families there and shed light on their side of the conflict.
From Beirut With Love,
W. Brandon Jourdan