[Editor’s note: Shadi Al-Kasim has worked with Alive in Baghdad in the past, and may begin filing stories regarding the Middle East from elsewhere in Baghdad. His first dispatch of this new format is from Lebanon, and was initially filed on July 26th]
I left Amman at 7pm on Tuesday 18/7/2006 heading for Beirut. The car moved to Damascus. Upon arrival to Damascus, I headed for the bus station and took the first bus traveling to Hems where I departed to the Syrian Lebanese borders (Al Arida). I reached there at 5:30am on Wednesday 19/7/2006. the borders were very quiet from Syria to Lebanon. In fact only me and three others were leaving to Lebanon, where as the escapees from the hell of strikes were hundreds of different nationalities. We crossed the border into Lebanon heading for Beirut during which I witnessed the trail of ruins by the Israeli raids which covered the whole area. A few minutes prior to arrival to Tripoli, I saw a large Lebanese military base which incurred massive raids by Israel and was leveled to the ground. I reached Beirut at 11am. Soon after arrival, Al Ashrafiah was subject to Israeli strikes. I proceed to the hotel in Al Hamra area, where occupation reached 100% and the guests were all refugees from the south of Lebanon, escaping the hell of strikes and damage.
In the evening, Beirut witnessed a violent strike. On Thursday 20/7/2006, I made some interviews with several refugees. First I met Mrs. Betol Fawaz, aged 32 and married with two children; one was a girl 9 years old and a six-year-old boy. I asked here where did you come from?
She said: from Al Juwayah, from the south.
She added: the situation is very complicated over there; lots of misery; people are dying; they are killing the children in cold blood; I don’t know what to say??? What is happening to us a is great injustice. My mother-in-law is paralyzed, but we cannot move here to Beirut. She will die. The Jews are striking everything. There is no electricity, no water, and no life at all. Finally, mother-in-law decided to stay and die over there.
What are they doing?? They are killing the innocent. It is unfair. Condoleezza Rice said that Hezbollah is a terrorist group. Let her come here and see how many innocent people were killed.
Betol couldn’t continue here words. She grasped here children and started to cry.
I made another interview with another refugee who left the south. He was Mohammad Al Dib, aged 19. He comes from Qana from the Lebanese south. Qana is a well-know town which was site for an Israeli massacre in 1990s.
He said: we were sitting at home when a violent strike started suddenly leaving a massive damage in my hometown. Lots of people died. Bodies were everywhere. Bombs couldn’t differentiate between a child and an elderly. It was a terrifying and ugly scene. I wish to address the Arab: you say you are Arab? You see your brothers massacred and killed while you are only watching. Is this Arabism and brotherhood?
Israelis say they are targeting the Party and its capabilities. They are lying. They are killing families and children. They are destroying the infrastructure totally. No one is stopping them.
They watch American violence and cowboy films and then they simulate that on us. My neighbor lost her legs by the strikes. What sort of life she will lead after losing here entire legs??? We will not lean to Israel and will die defending our homeland.
Plenty of displaced families and innocent children who do not understand why they are being killed??? You can see sadness and horror filling those innocent eyes.
At 9:15pm same day, the Southern Suburb was subject to extremely fierce strikes that the hotel walls, where I reside, were shaken and the windows shattered.
At 4:15pm on Thursday 21/7/2006 I headed, with the taxi driver to the Southern Suburb of Beirut. The streets were empty as if it was a city of ghosts. Trails of ruins and strikes were everywhere. You can see nothing but inspection points controlled by Hezbollah.
No one can have access to the Southern Suburb without permit by them. Otherwise he/she will be immediately arrested, as was the case with two British journalists along with their Lebanese interpreters. It was 5pm, Wednesday 20/7/2006 when they tried to enter and shoot without permission by Hezbollah forces. They were charged with espionage and now nobody knows anything about their destiny.
Hezbollah fighters asked me and the taxi driver to stay in the car until the officer in charge come. After 15 minutes, they came back and asked us to leave right away and come back at 11am. They told us that they receive journalists at 11am only. We left on the sport escaping the arrest.
We left for the area of the event Beirut which is next to the Southern Suburb, where the Israeli fighters raided a truck station and destroyed the whole trucks. Three drivers were killed. The scene of devastation was terrible. We got off the car and shot some pictures then headed for Ba’abda region, where the Israeli fighters stroke the main bridge at 1am the same day. It is well-know that the presidential palace is located in that area. The destruction scene was horrible. The bridge was struck with two 20-ton bombs, resulting in a giant damage and divided it into two. Lots of Christian Lebanese residents were watching the damaged bridge with astonishment.
I asked on of them: what’s your name?
He answered: Murad Antonius. I’m 40 years old and I live in Ba’abda. I’m very sad and angry at what’s going on. But I cannot blame Israel. We started, or Hezbollah to be correct. This is crazy. You cannot attack who’s several times stronger than you. We used to have many detainees in Israel, but now 3 millions of us are detainees. This is not fair.
I met many Lebanese Christians, Sunnis and Druze. All of them are indignant with Hezbollah and Israel. One of them told me: Lebanon is a state within a state. It is unbelievable.
The infrastructure was destroyed and Lebanon is on the verge of a humanitarian disaster. Medical and food supplies are running out. Lebanon nowadays is nothing but destruction, damage, strikes, and smell of death.
On the way back to Amman, near Zahla. Two civilian buses coming from the other side were struck, only 500 meters away from us, killing the entire passengers on the spot. The scene was terrible and repulsive.
Not those, until now, third of the total number of victims of the Israeli strikes are children.
[Editor’s note: Please consider making a donation earmarked for “Alive in Baghdad, correspondent Shadi Al-Kasim.” Because Shadi’s work is not currently focused on Iraq, we do not have the funds to pay him at this time. We are grateful to him for working with us and providing this important and timely work without pay. If you appreciate his work as I do, please make a small contribution to help his work, and that of Alive in Baghdad continue. Lastly, photos from Lebanon will be posted soon.]