Lebanese Devastated In All Sorts of Ways

BEIRUT, Jul 23 (IPS) - Much of Beirut is a devastated city, infrastructure in many areas lies in a shambles after the Israeli bombing. But the Lebanese are also just feeling devastated.

"Does our country not have the right to move forward like other democracies," says Nidal Mothman, a 35-year-old taxi driver in downtown Beirut. "We hate the American government for giving the green light for the Israelis to bomb us back to the stone age."

Mothman, like so many Lebanese in the capital city, is seething with anger over what he called "indiscriminate" Israeli aggression towards their country.

"How many Hezbollah have they killed," Mothman said. "Maybe just a few, while they've killed over 350 Lebanese civilians. What kind of war are they waging against my country?"

From the street to the leadership, most people seem to talk the same language. Last Thursday Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora told reporters that his country has been torn to shreds. "Can the international community stand by while such callous retribution by the state of Israel is inflicted on us?"

Siniora also accused Israel of massacring Lebanese civilians and attempting to destroy everything that allows the country to stay alive.

The facts on the ground add credence to his remarks. The humanitarian crisis continues to worsen by the hour, with close to a million Lebanese displaced. Officials say at least 64 bridges have been bombed. Many roads are cut by the bombing, and this is hindering transportation of food and aid supplies.

Other Israeli targets have included the country's largest milk factory, a food factory, two pharmaceutical plants, water treatment centres, power plants, grain silos, a Greek Orthodox Church, hospitals and an ambulance convoy.

In certain districts of Beirut life goes on as normal, but southern Beirut has been hit hard, with entire buildings brought to the ground by Israeli air raids.

"When do you think this war will end," 22-year-old student at the American University of Beirut Nishan Ishaqi said. "I lived in southern Beirut, and everything I know is totally destroyed now. I only want peace, and a safe place to stay."

Ishaqi, who was preparing to leave for Tripoli (north of Beirut in Lebanon) to stay with relatives, wept as he said, "Why must they do this to us? If they want to fight Hezbollah, let them fight them -- but not the Lebanese civilians."

Meanwhile, Israeli military operations continue to pummel southern Lebanon, including the city of Tyre, while Lebanese in Beirut had a day of relative calm Sunday.

Foreign war ships are crowding ports as evacuation of foreign nationals continues. "Yes, we see the priorities of the western countries as they evacuate their people," 55-year-old clothing merchant in the Hamra district of Beirut, Ayad Harrar said. "So you see, screw the Lebanese, they do not matter to us. This is what their governments are saying to us by these actions."

Harrar said people are shocked that his country was once again plunged into war, just when they thought they had found peace.

"This afternoon it is calm, but we all know that when they finish evacuating their people, we will be bombed once more," Harrar said. "It is not possible to live a life while we live under these conditions; not knowing when our day to die is coming from more Israeli bombs."

On Saturday, after meeting with members from a United Nations team who had just returned from the region, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters that the situation in Lebanon was part of the "birth pangs of a new Middle East," and said that Israel should ignore calls for a ceasefire.

Not many people in Beirut are able to see it that way. Suthir Amalat carrying her child in one arm as she bought water to take home for emergencies said she was preparing for everything to worsen.

"We are angry at Hezbollah for starting this catastrophe, but even more angry at the Israelis for destroying all of Lebanon," she said. "And America, who we thought was our friend, clearly now supports the Israeli destruction of our country."

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