The Bomb in My Neighborhood
Syrian War Hits Beirut
by FRANKLIN LAMB
This observer's neighbors seemed to believe, especially over the past year, as most of us did, that the war in Syria would, in one form or another, spill into our neighborhood, Dahiyeh, the Hezbollah stronghold in south Beirut near the Shatila and Burj el Barajeh Palestinian refugee camps.
And now it has with a vengeance.
As this observer left his flat this morning and walked toward his motorbike on Abbas Mousawi Street en route to Shatila Palestinian Camp for a 10:30 a.m. appointment, at precisely 10:15 a.m. there was a tremendously loud blast. It seemed to shake our massive 12 story apartment building which had been rebuilt by the WAAD ("promise") Hezbollah construction enterprise, from the mountain of rubble it was turned into in July of 2006. Leveled as most in the neighborhood were, by American weapons in the service of the Zionist regime still occupying Palestine.
Contrary to media reports, the blast was not on my street, Abass Mousawi, behind Bahman Hospital, but rather down a side street one block over and two blocks east toward the Hezbollah media office near the Hezbollah sponsored Islamic Cooperation Center in the area of Bir al-Abed. The explosion occurred close to the Coop supermarket and Salah Ghandour Square.
Jumping on my motorbike I was among the first to arrive on the scene face to face with an inferno that initially seemed to engulf ten or so cars in a parking lot surrounded by eight or nine Waad built high-rise apartment buildings, being a few of the more than 250 residential buildings in our neighborhood leveled during the 33 day July 2006 war.
Finally, it seemed like an eternity, two fire trucks arrived and made their way thru the rapidly expanding chaos as nearby residential buildings with windows blown out started to empty of their inhabitants amidst fears that another blast may be triggered. A few men joined this observer in pulling the very long hoses close to the inferno as medics arrived and searched for injured. At press time, 38 neighbors were treated, including several children, at nearby Bahman Hospital and others rushed to Rasoul al-Alham hospital and Cardiac Care Center, ten minutes away on airport road.
I observed a six feet by six feet by around eight foot deep crater at the blast site. As I watched the Red Crescent and Hezbollah emergency services staff care for the injured and the many who were traumatized, the crowd quickly grew to a few thousand, with fear, shock and anger spreading. Many elderly slumped against walls and curbs dazed while neighbor helped neighbor, especially the young to cope with the effects of the blast which shattered windows and caused serious damage to several nearby residential buildings, including cracks in their walls. There was much panic and shouting, with crying turning to anger and with people caring for the elderly and children with apartment building entrances set up as emergency treatment areas and neighbors helping neighboring reassure one another.
The Hezbollah neighborhood of Dahiyeh has been for years considered the safest residential area of Beirut due to strong Hezbollah security measures which over the past year have been intensified including the use of packs of explosive sniffing dogs moving up and across the streets and alleys, usually around three in the morning I have noticed since I often work during the night when its cooler and more quiet, and hearing a barking dog is very rare around here. More scrutiny-security cameras have been placed on utility poles and on rooftops, with security personnel frequently stopping and questioning new arrivals or visitors to the area and at time residents told not to go to their roofs.
Yet, as Syria's President Bashar Assad noted several months ago, despite intensive security measures taken in Damascus, it is still very difficult to prevent car bombings.
The speculation has already started concerning who committed this act of terrorism, one day before the start of the Holy Month of Ramadan. Whoever is was who caused the carnage; it was by booby trapping a 1998 Renault Rapid or a stolen four-wheel-drive Nissan--authorities are apparently not yet sure.
No one has yet claimed responsibility and likely will not. Hezbollah's International Relations official Hizbullah MP Ali Ammar told al-Manar that the blast was carried out by the supporters of the so-called American-Israeli project. "There are clear Israeli fingerprints," Ammar said as he inspected the damage.