A Disaster for the Lebanese

Once again the U.S. government has refused to condemn the Israeli invasion of Lebanon as the bombs fall on Beirut, killing scores of civilians.

In a moment of levity while driving to the border, Abu Talat turned to me and said, "You know what I miss?" I replied, "What do you miss sir?" He smiled and said, "Iraqi chai!" He then turns to our driver and asked him if he'd ever had Iraqi chai, then went on to brag about how tasty it is. "It is the greatest of chais," he said proudly when looking back to me once again.

When we arrived at the Lebanese border this morning we found thousands of people streaming across in cars with their luggage lashed on top, and many on foot pulling wheeled suitcases.

Little Bush, the ever obedient spokesman for Bush, announced that he thinks Syria should be punished for their role in supporting Hezbollah, so the mood in Damascas is one of anxious waiting to see what comes next. The how and when of the punishment is what is on our minds.

So the latest Israeli onslaught of Lebanon is in full swing, and with the Israelis need for the water of southern Lebanon, perhaps this occupation of Lebanon may last longer than the last one of 22 years. If indeed Syria gave the green light for Hezbollah to cross the UN line in southern Lebanon and launch their attack on Israeli soldiers where they detained two soldiers and killed another eight, they have effectively handed the Israeli war planners an excuse for all out war against Lebanon. In addition, the Hezbollah attack, if indeed supported by Syria, would give the U.S. the ability to give a green light to Israel to attack Syria. We wait, watch, and hope that the bombs don't begin to fall on Damascas.

A reported 15,000 people crossed the Lebanese border into Syria on Thursday, seeking refuge from widespread bombings in Beirut, carried out by Israeli F-16 warplanes. Today, the situation continued, with reports of bombed petrol stations, police stations, and a hospital.

Interviewing people at the border who had fled the bombs in Beirut, I felt like I was back in Iraq by what people were telling me.

"I was in an area south of Beirut which was bombed heavily by the Israelis," 55 year-old electrician Ali Suleiman told me, "There were so many refugees in shelters nearby us, which was also nearby an old hospital which the Israelis bombed last night. It was terrifying at night when they attacked our area, and the Israelis thought the hospital was an ammunition dump for Hezbollah, so they bombed the hospital. Both Syrian and Lebanese people are leaving now. There is no more food, not even bread. There was no more electricity or water in our area. If this situation continues, it will be a giant catastrophe."

The same tactics I've seen used by the U.S. in Fallujah, Al-Qa'im and other cities in Iraq.

I was told a similar story by a 22-year-old Lebanese student, Nebham Razaq Hamed, who was in southern Beirut. "The bombing at night was continuous and has continued today, they are using warplanes and sometimes artillery. Everybody is in a panic because of the haphazard bombing which is killing so many civilians now. The Israelis are terrorizing the people intentionally by not discriminating between fighters and civilians."

As the level of fighting deepens, one can only hope that other forms of terrorism don't beset the people of Lebanon, particularly the women. In Ruth Rosen's incredible piece, "A Wave of Sexual Terrorism In Iraq," the disastrous situation for women caught up in the chaos of war is outlined well. This must-read paints the tragic picture of what we can only hope will not descend on the women of Beirut as the Israeli siege of that city grinds on.

A man from Saudi Arabia on a bus with his family said, "Are the Israelis not occupying enough Arab land already?"

It is only 127 kilometers from Beirut to Damascas, so the attacks were very fresh on the minds of the people I spoke with--many of them with shaky hands.

Others told me that the Bekaa Valley of central Lebanon, located on a high plateau situated between the Mt. Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountain ranges, is being bombed, including the ancient city of Baalbek. The city, which began at the end of the third millennium BC, was originally Phoenician, is located near two rivers and shortly after a Roman colony was founded there by Julius Caesar in 47 BC, construction on the massive temple complex began in earnest. Whether the temples are being bombed is doubtful, but the nearby city of Baalbek, where Hezbollah controls the area, has been bombed according to two people I interviewed.

"It's very bad there, as the Israelis are attacking civilians, bombing police and petrol stations, and even the fuel storage depots," said a 50-year-old Kuwait man who was fleeing Beirut, "In fact, they have even bombed the airport once again. I saw F-16's bombing and there is smoke everywhere. This is a big disaster for the Lebanese."

When asked what he thought it would take to end the fighting, he promptly replied, "It looks like the Arab governments are not moving their asses, so I am leaving."

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