Friday, September 29, 2006

Tides of recent history bring unwelcome gift to Byblos

Tides of recent history bring unwelcome gift to Byblos
Fuel oil loosed by israeli attack on Jiyyeh has badly fouled a national treasure
By Tom McCarthy Daily Star staff

BYBLOS: For at least 7,000 years, the hooked bay at the confluence of Lebanon's Darje Valley and the Mediterranean shore has hosted what is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements on Earth. Named Byblos by the Greeks, the modern-day site is famous for the visitor's ability to take in, over the course of a single afternoon, the layered traces of the many civilizations - Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, Crusader, Ottoman - that have displaced one another, often violently, on this most scenic and storied stretch of the Levantine coast. This July, in the early days of Israel's bombardment of Lebanon, yet another layer was added to Byblos' open-air archive of the march of history and its attendant bloodshed. Unlike previous editions, however, the most recent layer is not one that preservationists will be at pains to safeguard. On July 15, Israeli attacks on storage tanks at the Jiyyeh power plant south of Beirut sent 10,000 to 15,000 tons of fuel oil into the sea. It has been called the worst environmental disaster in Mediterranean history. Prevailing summer winds quickly carried the seaborne hazard northward. Days later, a sign of the seriousness of what had happened began to materialize 60 kilometers away from the source of the contamination. A tar-like, odorous film appeared on the quarried boulders that reinforce the Byblos jetty; on the white hulls of the dozens of fishing boats tied down in the city's old harbor; on the gravelly beaches stretching to Batroun to the north and Jounieh to the south; and, disturbingly, on the foundation stones of two of the site's historical treasures: the twin, 12th-century seafront towers built as a first line of defense by occupying Christian armies. Suddenly everything the water touched turned black. Last week the gleaming slime on the medieval towers was singled out by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as "the most serious [cultural] damage resulting from the conflict," in a statement issued following a survey of Lebanon's five World Heritage Sites. "The vestiges of the ancient era - Phoenician, Hellenistic and Roman - situated underneath [the towers] are also covered with the same layer of oil," a separate, internal UNESCO report said. Due to its fragility, the site must be cleaned by hand, said the head of UNESCO's survey, Mounir Bouchenaki, in the statement. He estimated it would take 25 trained workers eight to 10 weeks to complete the job, at a cost of some $100,000. On the whole, UNESCO's reports following Israel's July-August bombardment of Lebanon did not contain the bad news that had been feared - of devastating damage to the Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek, for instance, or of similar damage to the Roman hippodrome or triumphal arch at Tyre. Both sites are in vicinities that suffered heavy fire for the duration of the war, however, and neither escaped injury. "Fissures on the lintels of the temples of Jupiter and Bacchus at [Baalbek] had probably widened because of vibrations from bombings nearby and warranted close monitoring," the UNESCO report said. In Tyre, meanwhile, "frescoes in a Roman tomb on the site had come partly unstuck, probably because of vibrations caused by bombs, and required emergency attention." The Tyre frescoes are only "200 meters from the closest bomb spot," a spokesperson at UNESCO's Beirut office told The Daily Star on Wednesday. "There was already a problem [with] their conservation. Additional shocking provoked further problems." The spokesperson - who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, in place of UNESCO Beirut's official cultural spokesperson, Dr. Abdel Moneim Osman, who was traveling and could not be reached - was concerned that the relative lack of damage at the World Heritage Sites, which were the focus of UNESCO's work, would overshadow major damage at secondary sites across the country. "Somehow it is good news, but you have to be very careful, because unfortunately some heritage sites, not World Heritage Sites, were destroyed," the spokesperson said, mentioning sites in Bint Jbeil and homes in the old souk of Baalbek that took direct hits. "Of course we were glad because the World Heritage Sites are a universal, outstanding value to humanity, and it's good news," the spokesperson explained. "But it doesn't mean that some important sites were not damaged." At Byblos, the southern Crusader-era tower now oversees the narrow inlet to the modern-day harbor. On Tuesday evening, three fishermen stood on the exposed rock shelf seaward from the tower, casting over the margin of goop hugging the shoreline into the relatively clean water beyond. "About the fish there is no problem, because the fish can swim below," said one angler, a Byblos resident in his 20s who gave his name as Rawad and who boasted an almost-full creel as the sun neared the horizon. The tower itself, a rectangular structure of mismatched limestone and marble blocks swept with hardy grass and capped by a dilapidated archway, drops more than 10 meters - the height of 18 cut stones - into the sea on all sides. The tower is green with moss at its base, where limestone meets saltwater. And now it is black, too. In places the uniform coat of fuel oil rises 3 meters from the sea at low tide. Splatter marks on the stones above the solid field of sludge provide an abstract record of the sea's restlessness over the last two months. The UNESCO Beirut spokesperson said an attempt had already been made to clean the gunk from the towers, but that the usual power-washing methods had proved unworkable on the highly articulated stone, which has been degraded by nearly a millennium of exposure to the elements. "The dynamics of cleaning with the same equipment [as used on the modern port] gave a disturbing result," said the spokesperson. "For this reason it's necessary to work manually. We have to use brushes and we have to use a specific solution. Because there are stones underwater and we need to be very careful ... All the archaeological remains are quite fragile." A special cleaning solution must be developed because the compound clinging to the walls of the Byblos port is atypical of fuel-spill disasters, the spokesperson said. "In general, these kinds of catastrophes are always with crude oil. But the oil dumped from the power plant was already processed." The spokesperson said damage to the site will increase the longer the clean-up is delayed. "These kinds of old materials - limestone, mud - they have a big capacity [for] absorption," the spokesperson said. "So they must be cleaned soon." UNESCO has $70,000 available in an international emergency fund, one statement said, but it was unclear whether any of this money would be applied toward clean-up costs. "This is a complicated question," said the UNESCO official. "We'll see what will happen." What exactly has been lost in the damage to the ramparts of Byblos is difficult to qualify. If nothing else, the black slime now besmirching the tower walls is a miserable testament to humankind's failure to act as a caretaker of the past. The latest layer to be added to the Byblos archive is, quite literally, a stain on history.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Lebanon, a unique example of humanitarian solidarity

Lebanon, a unique example of humanitarian solidarity
By David Shearer

I left Beirut last week feeling that in the few short months I was the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Lebanon, I witnessed the Lebanese people in their very best light. Lebanon was my 11th assignment to a humanitarian emergency. It is from that perspective that I judge recent events in the country and how its people responded to the war with Israel.

When I arrived in July, with the conflict raging, 1 million people - nearly a quarter of the country's population - were in flight, living in areas away from the fighting and the air and artillery assault on their communities, to the safety of Beirut, North Lebanon or Syria. Only weeks later, with the cessation of hostilities on August 14, these same people were on the move again, this time in a rush back to their homes, so many of which were unfortunately found damaged or destroyed. To my mind, the most intriguing thing about this large-scale migration was just how orderly and without incident it was. What other country could experience such a mass movement of its citizens in the heat of war and have virtually no incidence of hunger, malnutrition or deadly disease? In my experience, it's simply unprecedented. For our part, the UN agencies and non-governmental organizations gave help where needed - with food, water, medicine, tents, blankets and cooking utensils, even some psychological support. We were also able - thanks to our ability to communicate directly with the Israelis - to keep the humanitarian convoys moving. Some 80 trucks and two ships, in all, continued to deliver our relief supplies and those of the Lebanese government as well, even in the heat of war.

But the true safety net in this emergency proved to be the Lebanese people, themselves. Regardless of religion or ethnic background, families, even whole communities, embraced those fleeing the fighting, taking them into their homes and feeding and caring for them. To my mind, this is what humanitarian assistance is all about, and the Lebanese people proved in their compassion to be a model for the world.

It's now been just five weeks since the cessation of hostilities, and the humanitarian relief phase is pretty much over. For the most part all who needed food have been fed. Medicine chests in hospitals and clinics throughout the country are now full. And while water distribution in the South will continue for some weeks, government agencies, with the support of the UN and NGOs, are hard at work repairing critical storage tanks and water supply lines. A few days ago I took a trip through South Lebanon. What was most amazing to me was to see how much of the reconstruction process is already under way. Lebanese communities have moved quickly to clean up the rubble of war. And dozens of government work crews could be seen strung all along the roadways, installing the new electrical lines and transformers that are quickly returning light and heat to communities and schools and that will power the generators and pumps to bring back regular supplies of water.The reconstruction process will not happen overnight, particularly given the large scale of destruction, and the lingering legacy of those 300,000-plus cluster-bomb sub-munitions that will continue to endanger lives and livelihoods for some time to come. But thanks to the $900 million committed to recovery by donors at the Stockholm conference in early September, and significant bilateral donations from Gulf countries and elsewhere, the government and municipalities will have the resources in hand for a well-planned recovery. Humanitarian relief efforts can sometimes drag on too long and overstay their need. This is one event in which the Lebanese people themselves helped speed the relief phase. Our job is done, and I take my leave, comfortable in the knowledge that the Lebanese government and its people, with the continuing assistance of UN development agencies and NGOs, are moving ahead confidently with the recovery process.

On a personal note, it has been an honor and a privilege for me to work with the people of Lebanon in their time of crisis. They've taught me a lesson about compassion and solidarity in the face of turmoil. I have no doubt that their wonderful energy and sense of optimism will be the mortar for building a better country than the one that has been so painfully damaged.

David Shearer was the UN humanitarian coordinator for Lebanon. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Martyrs of Lebanon

Today the "Lebanese Forces" are organizing a mass in Harissa in remembrance of its martyrs and the martyrs of the Lebanese war. Although former President Bashir Gemayel is acknowledged as the first martyr to the "Lebanese Forces" I would like to celebrated by this simple post my own Grandfather, William Haoui, also a martyr to the Lebanese cause.

William Haoui was the predecessor of Bashir Gemayel in the "Kataeb" (even before the LF were created) who, following William's death, was appointed his replacement as president of the Military Council.

"Chef William" was the former chief of the Kataeb Security Council: Joined the Phalanx organization in 1937, was appointed Head of the Second and Fourth Districts, President of the Recruitment Bureau, Head of the Department of Security, Sport and Mobilization on May 29, 1952, and member of the Political Bureau on July 12, 1952. On June 16, 1958, he was in charge of organizing and leading the activists during the Lebanese events; this constituted the hub of the Party's Regulatory Forces of which he became the leader on February 6, 1961. On January 23, 1961, the Political Bureau dissolved the militants' organization before including its members in the Lebanese Phalanx Party and creating the Regulatory Forces. On February 6, 1961, William Haoui was appointed Head of said Forces. In 1963, the “First Commandos” unit was created. It was followed by the “Second Commandos” unit, then by the “P.G.” troop. In 1973, the "Maghaweer" platoon was created and the “Combat School” established. Moreover, “Chef” William supervised the setting up of camps as well as the training organization and development, which enabled the progress of the regulatory process although work was voluntary and financial capacities were scarce. In 1952, the Lebanese Phalanx put William Haoui up for the Municipal Council in the Achrafieh-Rmeil region, where he obtained the largest number of votes. On July 1, 1976, the sources of the Lebanese allied forces announced the fall of the last bastion in Tell el Zaatar and declared that the Head of the Phalanx War Council supervised this operation.

On July 13, 1976, William Haoui was killed in the middle of the battlefield with a bullet in the forehead. After William's martyrdom in Tal El Zaatar Bashir Gemayel was appointed his replacement as president of the Military Council.

More information here: http://www.socialdemocratic.org/kataeb/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=23&Itemid=27

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Debris from the Beirut suburbs (Dahyieh)

Lebanon quoted in the Holy Bible

A nice article I have read on the subject of 'Lebanon quoted in the Holy Bible' is online at this link (which states that the word "Lebanon" was mentioned 71 times), if anyone is interested.

The whole Bible is available online at: http://www.searchgodsword.org/ with search capabilities by keyword /scripture in different versions, again for info and those interested.

That was one hell of a summer!

Man, that was one hell of a summer!
It had started out so well...! For the first time in 10 years we felt like we were living in peace and were making plans like crazy!! My parents had rented a "chalet" on a beautiful, private beach front in Batroun... my sister and her husband got a house there and my brother-in-law started his scuba-diving business with promising prospective... Friends from all over the world were planning to come discover my beloved Lebanon, other friends were planning their wedding days and I was even invited to witness a marriage in a mediaval castle in Tuscany Italy!
I also had met a guy, fell head-over-heels in love and was feeling like a queen in his arms ...

And in a split second, everything changed!
My beloved Lebanon was under attack, we were under siege, people were being evacuated and displaced, tourism was nil, business declined, weddings got cancelled and I got my heart broken because, for whatever reason, my sweetheart was feeling too much pressure to be in a relationship!

I realize I am bitching far too much considering that I have sooooooooo much to be thankful for... but, Yup!! that was one hell of a summer man!! Literally!
J.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Israel cluster bomb use in Lebanon "outrageous": U.N.

Israel cluster bomb use in Lebanon "outrageous": U.N.
By Alistair Lyon, Special Correspondent (REUTERS)

Israel dropped at least 350,000 cluster bomblets on south Lebanon in its war with Hizbollah guerrillas, mostly when the conflict was all but over, leaving a deadly legacy for civilians, a U.N. official said on Tuesday. "The outrageous fact is that nearly all of these munitions were fired in the last three to four days of the war," David Shearer, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Lebanon, told a news conference in Beirut. "Outrageous because by that stage the conflict had been largely resolved in the form of (U.N. Security Council) Resolution 1701," he said. The resolution adopted on August 11 halted 34 days of fighting three days later. A truce has largely held since then. Israel denies using cluster bombs illegally. Shearer said Israel had not explained why it fired so many cluster bombs across the south as the war drew to a close. Nor had it responded to a U.N. request for the map coordinates of the cluster bomb strikes to hasten clearance efforts.

U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland has called Israel "completely immoral" for using them in residential areas. The United Nations has so far identified 516 cluster bomb strike locations and says 30 to 40 percent of the bomblets they scattered over the south failed to explode at the time. Only about 17,000 bomblets have been defused so far and the United Nations says it could take up to 30 months to destroy most of the unexploded sub-munitions. The British-based Land mine Action group has said clearing the south could take a decade.

Shearer said cluster bombs had killed or wounded an average of three people a day since the war ended, with 15 killed, including a child, and 83 wounded, of whom 23 are children. Clearance efforts have so far focused on villages, schools and playing areas, but will soon shift toward farmland, which provides 70 percent of household incomes in the south, he said. "The cluster munitions are stopping farmers from getting out to their fields and resuming their farming activities," he said. Human rights groups have criticized Israel and Hizbollah for targeting civilians indiscriminately in the war that began after Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers on July 12. "We know these (cluster) munitions have a failure rate and it seems to me extraordinary that they were fired off in the last hours of the war into areas where civilian populations were known to be going," Shearer said. "For a humanitarian person, it defies belief that this would happen."

Monday, September 18, 2006

A random thought....

I know my blog is supposedly exclusively dedicated to Lebanon but here is a thought nevertheless... did anyone ever notice the increased number of women in Politics and especially in Foreign Affairs?

First and foremost, in the USA Ms. Gondolliza Rice a.k.a. Gondy.
Second and equally important Ms. Tzipi Livni in Israel.
Followed by Dr. Angela Dorothea Merkel as the current Chancellor of Germany, Ms. Margaret Beckett in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Micheline Calmy-Rey in Switzerland, Bentia Ferrero-Waldner in Austria and as commissioner of External Relations for the European Union, Dr. Ursula Plassnik in Austria, Dora Bakoyannis in Greece, Joy Ogwu in Nigeria, María Consuelo Araújo Castro in Columbia,Valgerður Sverrísdóttir in Iceland, Kinga Göncz in Hungary, Dame Billie Miller in Barbados , Dr. Nkosazana C. Dlamini-Zuma in South Africa, Dodo Aïchatou Mindaoudou in Niger, Alcinda Abreu in Moçambique, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović in Croatia, Rita Kieber-Beck in Liectenstein, Antoinette Batumubwira in Burundi, Lygia Kraag-Keteldijk in Suriname, Asha-Rose Migiro in Tanzania, Mariam Aladji Boni Diallo in Benin, Anna Fotygak in Poland, Joyce Banda in Malawi, etc.

Would the world be a better place with more women in power? Would it be more peaceful? Would there be less war, poverty and hunger and more attention to social, environmental, public and world welfare?

I personnally believe a women in a position of power would be able to do wonders! I trust our intellect, our rational and our instincts. Such women command respect and admiration and usually have both when dealing in a roomful of politicians.

However, women intereacting with other women on that level when the fate of the world is at stake... literally, well I am not so sure anymore. I suppose a socioligist, psychologist or even historian would be more scientifically ready to answer this question...

That was just a random thought.

UN rapporteur ends mission to probe Israeli violations of right to food

UN rapporteur ends mission to probe Israeli violations of right to food
By Iman Azzi Special to The Daily Star

BEIRUT: "Intentionally destroying civilian infrastructure, including factories which produce food, is a war crime under international law," the UN Human Rights Commission's special rapporteur for the right to food said Friday as he ended a five-day fact-finding mission to Lebanon. Jean Zeigler, an independent human rights expert who is consulting for the world body, arrived in Lebanon on Monday to gather first-hand information, establish facts and investigate persistent allegations of violations of the right to food during the recent conflict with Israel. Zeigler's investigations focused on the long-term effects on Lebanon's farming and fishing industries, with specific attention to water availability, after Israel unleashed a 34-day bombing campaign on the country in reaction to the abduction of two Israeli soldiers during a cross-border raid by Hizbullah on June 12. "The irrigation system was completely destroyed. Paradoxically the irrigation cannot be fixed until the de-mining is done. If you irrigate the fields, the bomblets will move and make the process more difficult," Zeigler told reporters at the Beirut Marriott Hotel. Without proper irrigation, Zeigler added, crops that have already been planted will dry up. "The water damage is quite impressive," he said. "Reservoir pumps are mostly destroyed. Lebanon is already a dry country, and water in the South is 500 or 600 meters underground. They need these pumps not only for farming but for health reasons." Even before the war, Lebanese citizens were consuming only 60 liters of water a day instead of the 120 liters recommended for consumption and hygiene by the World Health Organization.

"I've seen many post-conflict areas - Ethiopia, Somalia, Bangladesh - and generally there is heavy destruction but never have I seen a situation where there is all this destruction and the problem of the 1.2 million bomblets, hanging on trees, laying in the fields, on the ground, impeding reconstruction," Zeigler, said."The destruction of infrastructure makes it hard, if not impossible, to resume agricultural works. These bomblets were dropped in over 450 locations and although they have started to be removed in the fields - olive, citrus, tobacco - it will take years to clear." Forty percent of Lebanese are directly or indirectly dependent on the agricultural sector and many farmers must take out loans to pay for new crops. "Farmers pay last year's debts with this year's harvest," he said. "The cycle of debt will worsen as they will not be able to plant this season. Over 8,000 Lebanese families rely on fishing. Ziegler warned that the full effects of the oil spill can not be known. As an example, he mentioned that after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, the eco-system broke down three years after the initial spill. Zeigler, a professor by training at universities in Paris and Geneva, examined the situation according to standards of basic human rights and according to international humanitarian law: "We went wherever we wanted with no restriction, thanks to the Lebanese government's efficient cooperation." Ziegler's work follows a visit last week by four other UN special rapporteurs on the rights to health; adequate housing; extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and on internally displaced persons. He is expected to present his final findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Commission in the coming week.

Who can hit the US Embassy in Syria?!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Letter from Greenpeace

Dear Supporter,

The resilience of Lebanon inspires us. During the war, there was example after example of people helping each other and of humanity at work. During the fighting, we were glad to contribute by using the ‘Rainbow Warrior’ to deliver urgently needed medical supplies in five trips with Medecins Sans Frontiere.

After the fighting, we are focused on the impact of the war on the environment. The impact has been massive in Lebanon but has also affected the entire region. In past weeks, we have been assessing and communicating these impacts and have teams working on beaches and on the ground to help with the clean-up efforts.

Next week, we are bringing the ‘Rainbow Warrior’ back to Lebanon to help the international and national oil-spill recovery effort. It will help assess the extent of oil smothering the sea bottom and help in its removal. We also intend to find out how much the spill is affecting underwater life by working with biologists in Beirut.

Your continued support is not just essential to help the recovery of our coasts but it also is a great motivation to our office and volunteers. If you would like to get involved directly, we invite you to join us. Contact our office on 00961 1 755665 or sign up our web site and give us a hand.

Yours in peace,
Ahmet Bektas
Executive Director

Greenpeace Mediterranean

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Liban : un désastre écologique

Liban : un désastre écologique
Politis, Claude-Marie Vadrot:

Le Liban s’apprête à porter plainte contre Israël pour les terribles dommages provoqués par les bombardements sur l’environnement.

Les dernières images satellites recueillies par le Programme des Nations unies pour l’environnement (Pnue) attestent que la marée noire qui a envahi le littoral du Liban depuis le bombardement de la centrale de Jiyyey, au sud de Beyrouth, s’étend désormais sur plus d’une centaine de kilomètres. Elle est parvenue depuis le 2 août sur une partie de la côte syrienne et menace la Turquie. Les analyses faites sur place et depuis l’espace montrent qu’en certains endroits l’épaisseur de la couche dépasse cinquante centimètres, dans la mesure où le fuel continue de s’écouler. C’est la plus grave marée noire jamais connue par la Méditerranée, le désastre que le Centre de lutte contre les pollutions de Malte redoute depuis des années pour cette mer fermée et sans marée. La quantité de produit pétrolier dépasse la pollution provoquée il y a quelques années en France par l’Erika, le tonnage déversé étant largement supérieur à 20 000 tonnes, et le produit beaucoup plus lourd, difficile à neutraliser et ne s’évaporant pratiquement pas.
Les appels à l’aide internationale du gouvernement libanais sont restés lettre morte : les équipes de Malte, les spécialistes français du Centre de documentation de recherche et d’expérimentations sur les pollutions accidentelles des eaux (Cedre), tout comme les Italiens, tous sollicités, ne sont pas encore en mesure, malgré une réunion d’urgence fin août, d’acheminer des équipes de secours, des produits et du matériel. Tous ont fait savoir, comme les Nations unies, qu’ils ne pourraient intervenir que lorsque le blocus israélien sera levé. De toute façon, il est déjà largement trop tard. Comme toujours dans les conflits, petits et grands, l’environnement et la nature constituent le cadet des soucis des belligérants. Bien sûr, il y a les morts, les blessés, les infrastructures détruites, mais, pour la destruction, il faudra attendre des années pour que les conséquences pesant sur les vivants commencent à disparaître. Au Liban comme en Israël.Cette marée noire, la première au monde à ne pas pouvoir être traitée, dans la mesure où le fuel se mélange aux sables et coule peu à peu sur le fond, compromet le tourisme pour des années. Quant aux pêcheurs, leur activité est également compromise pour une longue période, la plupart des poissons et des crustacés sont détruits et leurs frayères colmatées. La mortalité serait proche, déjà, de 100 %. Tout comme pour des milliers d’oiseaux. Avant le cessez-le-feu, le Pnue n’a jamais pu obtenir la certitude que ses spécialistes ne seraient pas bombardés par l’aviation israélienne.La marée noire a également entraîné, dans les heures qui ont suivi le bombardement, une pollution atmosphérique qui a affecté les voies respiratoires de milliers de personnes, notamment les enfants. Cette pollution de l’air n’est pas la seule : de nombreuses usines et réservoirs des régions de Tyr et de Beyrouth contenant des produits chimiques industriels (notamment du chlore et des acides) ont été touchés par les bombardements. Ces produits se sont en partie dispersés dans les airs, le reste est passé dans le sol et gagne lentement les nappes phréatiques, dont certaines offrent déjà de l’eau impropre à la consommation.

Hello

Dear Reader,

I am really interested in hearing from you so please do not hesitate to send me your comments, thoughts, suggestions, ideas, etc...

Comments are moderated only by myself so they will not be published unless I click the button ;)

J.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Michel Hayek in Noun

From Tayyar.org website


هذه توقعات ميشال حايك لعام 2006
نقلاً عن مجلة Noun في عددها الصادر بتاريخ أيلول 2006

13 ايلول 2006
سيستقبل لبنان أهم الرؤوساء في العالم ومن بينهم الملك عبدالله – المملكة العربية السعودية – رغم الخطر المحدق به.


بالنسبة لجريمة اغتيال الحريري سيظهر على الملأ وجوه جديدة لها علاقة بمقتله. وهناك ايضاً وجوه أخرى ستختفي ولن تعود للظهور مجدداً.

لأول مرة نلاحظ أشياء مشتركة بين لبنان وإسرائيل. نفس السيناريو سيتكرر في البلدين حيث سنرى ايضاً استقالات من هنا وهناك.

سيتبين ان وجود حالة Ariel Sharon في الـ Coma لم تكن مجرد قضاء وقدر بل ان وقوعه في الـ Coma كان نتيجة مدبرة وذلك لأسباب تتعلق بأحداث فلسطين وجنوب لبنان.

: حدث مهم سيجمع في يوم واحد جمهور 8 و 14 آذار وذلك نتيجة لموقف مهم. وهذا التلاقي ستكون نتائجه
أ‌- خط سياسي جديد.
ب‌- التلاقي سيتكرر عدة مرات قبل أن يتفرقوا.
ت‌- سينتهي هذا التلاقي بأحداث عدة.

سيشهد الحدود عملية تبادل. وهذا التبادل سيكون مهماً جداً وضخم للغاية ومختلف. ولكنه سيتخذ وجهه شكل الفضيحة ولن يبقى سراً.

أرى وجهان لتجمع 14 آذار أحدها سيقف أمام منصة المحكمة والآخر يتحدى جمعه بطريقة انقلابية (Putschiste).

حدث مهم سيجري عند الاستنطاق حول مصير أحد رجالات الاعلام المهمين اللبنانيين.

أرى في أحد مستشفيات USA المراقبة بشكل كبير، أرى احدى الشخصيات الأميركية المهمة داخلها.

رغم الحالة الاقتصادية للبنان التعيسة واعلانه بلداً منكوباً، وذلك نتيجة للدمار وانهيار في بنيته التحتية، ورغم الهزة التي ضربت هذا البلد نتيجة للحرب الاسرائلية الأخيرة، فأني أرى الوضع الاقتصادي في المستقبل قوياً وصلباً ومستقراً.

سيتمتع الاقتصاد اللبناني بالثقة وسيعزز بنتائج جيدة جداً ومهمة للغاية.

- أما مصرف لبنان فسيكون جاهزاً ومستعداً وبواسطة حاكمه لأستقبال أهم ميدالية تقدير تعرف بميدالية الشرف لأفضل حاكم مصرف في العالم

Israeli soldiers blow whistle on use of illegal weapons

Israeli soldiers blow whistle on use of illegal weapons
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Israeli soldiers blew the whistle on the Israeli Army's "insane and monstrous" attacks on Lebanon in an article posted on the Web site of an Israeli newspaper on Tuesday. Several anonymous sources within the army's artillery units posted in Lebanon during the recent 34-day war told the Haaretz daily that they had blanketed Southern Lebanon's towns with cluster bombs and knowingly launched bombs banned by international law. "What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs," the head of an Israeli Army rocket unit in Lebanon told Haaretz regarding the use of cluster bombs and phosphorous shells during the war. Quoting his battalion commander, the rocket unit head stated that the Israeli Army fired some 1,800 cluster bombs, containing over 1.2 million cluster bomblets. Other soldiers testified that the army used internationally banned phosphorous shells during the war. The lion's share of the illegal ordinance was fired in the final 10 days of the war, they said. The rocket unit commander further told Haaretz Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) platforms were used extensively, despite the fact they are known to be "highly inaccurate." The article described MLRS as "a track- or tire-carried mobile rocket launching platform, capable of firing a very high volume of mostly unguided munitions. The basic rocket fired by the platform is unguided and imprecise, with a range of about 32 kilometers. The rockets are designed to burst into sub-munitions at a planned altitude in order to blanket enemy army and personnel on the ground with smaller explosive rounds." "The use of such weaponry is controversial mainly due to its inaccuracy and ability to wreak great havoc against indeterminate targets over large areas of territory, with a margin of error of as much as 1,200 meters from the intended target to the area hit," it added. The United Nations has estimated that as much as 40 percent of the clusters fired on Lebanon remain on the ground as unexploded munitions. At least a dozen Lebanese civilians have been killed by unexploded bomblets since an August 14 cease-fire began. According to the commander, in order to compensate for the inaccuracy of the rockets and the inability to strike individual targets precisely, units would "flood" the battlefield with munitions, accounting for the littered and explosive landscape of post-war Lebanon. When his reserve duty came to a close, the commander sent a letter to Defense Minister Amir Peretz outlining the use of cluster munitions, a letter which he told Haaretz has remained unanswered. The Israeli daily said that "it has come to light that Israeli soldiers fired phosphorous rounds in order to cause fires in Lebanon," quoting an artillery commander as saying he saw trucks loaded with phosphorous rounds on their way to artillery crews in the north of Israel. The International Red Cross has determined that international law forbids the use of phosphorous and other types of flammable rounds against personnel, both civilian and military. The Israeli Army's Spokesman's Office told Haaretz that "international law does not include a sweeping prohibition of the use of cluster bombs. The convention on conventional weaponry does not declare a prohibition on [phosphorous weapons], rather, on principles regulating the use of such weapons." - The Daily Star

More pictures of my beautiful Lebanon








Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Lebanon's brain drain...

Best war pic :P

Blair delivers pledge of support for army's presence in South

Blair delivers pledge of support for army's presence in South; Outgoing premier plays down role in delaying cease-fire
Compiled by Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: British Premier Tony Blair pledged to help train and strengthen Lebanon's army, now deployed in the South for the first time in decades. On his first visit to Beirut, Blair was greeted by angry demonstrators protesting his position on Israel's war against Lebanon. In a joint news conference with his Lebanese counterpart, Blair said that Britain will provide "training, equipment, and any help we can give." Blair also said his country would commit over $75 million in aid to Lebanon this year.
Prime Minister Fouad Siniora asked for Blair's help with postwar reconstruction and in the "empowerment and enhancement of our army and our internal security forces." As Blair stood beside Siniora, Caoimhe Butterly, an Irish peace activist, shouted that the British leader's visit was "an insult." "Shame on you Tony Blair," Butterly yelled, holding a banner that read: "Boycott Israeli apartheid." Her protest was captured by live television cameras, until security guards, holding her by her arms and legs, hauled her out. The two leaders watched in silence, then Siniora said: "It's all right. We are a democracy ... We respect all sorts of expression." Blair said he understood the anger in Lebanon, where people saw his refusal to call for an immediate cease-fire as implicit support of Israel's aggression, which killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians. "Of course feelings run high, innocent people lost their lives here, this country has been set back by years," said Blair, the second Western leader to come to Beirut since fighting erupted in July. French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin arrived in the Lebanese capital July 17, on the fifth day of the war. Blair has defended his stance on the war, saying it was important to take the time to craft a settlement that would hold rather than settle for a quick peace likely to collapse. Siniora urged the British leader to work to revive efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict through the UN Security Council on the basis of an Arab plan that offers Israel peace if it withdraws from Arab land occupied in 1967. "Only by addressing the underlying causes can we guarantee peace and security for the Middle East," Siniora said. Blair vowed to use the rest of his time in office seeking Middle East peace. "It is important that we do everything we can to re-energize that [peace] process, to give ourselves the best chance of achieving a lasting, comprehensive settlement of that issue with two states living side by side in peace," Blair said. "I hope out of what has been a tragic and terrible time, we can rebuild in a way that gives not just lasting peace here in the Lebanon but a lasting peace in the region," Blair said. "I believe it can be done. And furthermore I commit myself for the remainder of my time in office to do everything I can to bring that about." Blair arrived in Beirut after a trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he pushed for a resumption of the peace process and the formation of a Palestinian national unity government. Siniora, along with Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh, greeted Blair at the airport and they drove into Beirut together in a 22-vehicle motorcade, amid tight security measures, with police cordoning off a large section of Downtown Beirut to traffic and prohibiting parking on the route of Blair's motorcade. Siniora's office had said Blair would also meet Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. But sources close to Berri said Sunday he would be "out of town." Asked whether it was a snub, Blair's spokesman said: "That's a matter for Nabih Berri." He said Blair would meet the Lebanese Cabinet, except for its two Hizbullah members - who chose not to attend the meeting - although he would have been "perfectly happy" to do so. Salloukh, a Shiite minister close to both Berri and Hizbullah, said that "on the official level and out of commitment to protocol and diplomatic norms we greeted Mr. Blair." "But this does not stop us from expressing our opposition to the British stance during the Israeli aggression on Lebanon especially facilitating the arrival of destructive armaments to Israel through Britain," referring to the use of British airports by US jets carrying missiles to Israel. A spokesman for Blair said the visit was aimed at expressing Britain's support for UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls for deployment of a beefed-up international force in Lebanon and the disarmament of Hizbullah. - Agencies

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Israeli gunboat fires across bows of fishermen near Tyre

Israeli gunboat fires across bows of fishermen near Tyre

SOUTH LEBANON: An Israeli patrol boat fired in the direction of three Lebanese fishing boats overnight, police in the Southern port of Tyre said Sunday, only two days after Israel lifted its naval blockade off the country. The incident came as the Lebanese Army reported that an Israeli reconnaissance plane violated Lebanese airspace on Saturday night. No casualties were reported in the incidents offshore the town of Naqoura, which is located only some 4 kilometers from the Israeli border. All shots were reportedly directed over the tops of the boats. Khalil Taha, president of the fishermen's union in Tyre, told AFP that none of the Lebanese boats had entered Israeli territorial waters, explaining that the maritime border is marked by a line of buoys extending roughly 10 nautical miles (18 kilometers) from the coast. The army said an "enemy reconnaissance plane" flew over Abbassiyeh and Ansariyeh, two villages east of Tyre, between 8:20 and 10:55 p.m. on Saturday. On Friday, Israel lifted its eight-week naval blockade of Lebanon, a day after ending the air embargo. Even before the 34-day war between Israel and Lebanon, Israeli patrol boats would enter Lebanese waters and fire threateningly at fishermen or even arrest them. Also on Sunday, an explosion was heard in Naqoura. While the National News Agency said an unidentified object exploded on the beach, sources said the explosion was fishermen using dynamite. - With agencies, additional reporting by Mohammed Zaatari

My Beautiful Lebanon










Friday, September 08, 2006

Israel decides to extend naval blockade another 48 hours. Beirut airport Welcomes first direct flights
By Rym Ghazal, Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: A much anticipated end to Israel's blockade of Lebanon fell short of expectations Thursday, with Israel announcing that it would continue its naval siege until international forces took up their maritime positions. Israel's last-minute decision to extend its naval blockade for another 48 hours came in response to a wave of domestic opposition from the military and families of two captured Israel soldiers to lifting the siege before the soldiers are returned. "The aerial blockade has been removed. In coordination with the United Nations, the naval blockade will continue until the international naval force is in place," Miri Eisen, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, told reporters. According to Israeli public television, the Israeli Army is expected to completely withdraw its troops from Southern Lebanon by September 22, coinciding with the Jewish New Year. "What starts at 6 p.m. [1500 GMT] is a gradual process, it could take hours or a day [to complete]," she added, referring to the hour in which hundreds of thousands of Lebanese had expected to celebrate the liberation of their country's seas and skies. Israel said the UN was still working out logistical issues, but expected the problem to be resolved within 48 hours - bumping the expected lifting of the siege to 6 p.m. Saturday. However, Israel said earlier in the day it "reserved the right" to attack any suspected Hizbullah shipments from Syria. The announcement of the blockade's extension came mere minutes after Speaker Nabih Berri and dozens of MPs had packed up and left the Parliament, ending their six-day sit-in against the blockade. "Now we can say the war is officially over," Berri had told the Parliament in a speech held at precisely 6 p.m. "We withstood the Israeli aggression and we withstood the siege that was suffocating every aspect of our everyday life and was being used as blackmail against us to make us bow," the speaker said, praising Hizbullah, the people and the media for "their great sacrifices during and after the war." "We finally regained control of our ports that have been used by the Israelis to sneak into Lebanon," Berri added, moments before Israel announced it would continue to control Lebanon's seaways. "We can now begin the next stage; the reconstruction of the infrastructure and our souls. But we have to remain united, united and united, especially now, and rebuild Lebanon again with even better infrastructure and determination," he continued. When contacted by The Daily Star, a spokesperson for the speaker said: "The naval blockade is a technical problem, not political, and so the speaker and the MPs are not going to resume the sit-in."

As Lebanon's ports remained empty, with industrial cranes that had been brought out to greet incoming ships in Beirut sitting idle, life was once more breathed into Rafik Hariri International airport. A Middle East Airlines flight from coming from Paris circled over Beirut at low altitude four minutes after the air blockade was lifted, banking over Downtown Beirut three times before landing at the airport located just outside the capital in celebration. The Israeli Army lowered the blockade on the Beirut airport after bombing its runways and fuel-storage tanks on July 13, the day after Hizbullah fighters captured the two soldiers. Once the plane landed, a large Lebanese flag was thrust out of a cockpit window, the distinctive green cedar tree emblem flanked by two solid red bars waving in the wind. The MEA flight was soon followed by a Kuwait Airways plane loaded with officials from the Gulf country and commercial passengers. The Kuwaiti plane also hung a Lebanese flag out of a cockpit window after landing at Rafik Hariri International Airport. Airport officials said that most airlines were planning to resume their regular flights to Beirut on Friday.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Israel to lift Lebanon blockade on Thursday

Israel to lift Lebanon blockade on Thursday
By Alistair Lyon, Special Correspondent (REUTERS)

Israel said on Wednesday it would lift an eight-week-old air and sea blockade against Lebanon on Thursday, handing over control to international forces. Shortly after the announcement, Lebanon formally asked U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan -- who brokered the end of the blockade -- to authorize the deployment of German naval ships to monitor the Lebanese coast.
French, Italian and Greek naval ships are expected to be deployed until Germany takes over the sea patrols. Israel said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had been told by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Annan that "international forces are ready to take over control posts over the sea ports and airports of Lebanon." "Thus it was agreed that tomorrow at 6 p.m. (1500 GMT), Israel will leave the control positions over the ports in conjunction with the entry of the international forces," a statement from Olmert's office said. Israel imposed the embargo, bombing Beirut airport and denying ships access to Lebanese ports, a day after Hizbollah captured two of its soldiers on July 12 and sparked a war that was halted by a U.N.-brokered truce nearly five weeks later. Lebanon had vowed to bust the blockade if it was not lifted by Friday. In a sign the end of the embargo was i mminent, British Airways said it was resuming direct flights to Beirut after the British government gave assurances it would be safe to do so. Lebanon's Middle East Airlines and Royal Jordanian began flying regularly into the capital last month, but have complied with Israel's insistence all such flights go via Amman. Qatar Airways resumed direct flights to Beirut on Monday. Israel said it reserved the right to take action to stop any arms smuggling across the Syrian border to the Lebanese Hizbollah guerrilla group until full implementation of the U.N. Security Council resolution that ushered in the August 14 truce. "We will continue to supervise to see that no weapons arrive through the Syrian-Lebanese border," Miri Eisin, a spokesman for Olmert, told Reuters. "We see international forces as the best solution ... Until there is an accepted solution to the way (the U.N. Security Council ban on arms shipments) can be implemented, Israel will continue to act in self-defence to make sure no arms arrive."

PRISONER SWAP
Lebanon's Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh told reporters in Cairo on Wednesday the two Israeli soldiers held by Hizbollah would not be released unless there were talks with Israel about a prisoner swap. Israel says the main violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution is Hizbollah's failure to free the two soldiers. "A continution of this violation will have consequences," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev. "The Lebanese government has formally accepted (the resolution). They must act and follow through on their commitment which calls for an immediate and unconditional release of our servicemen." Annan said he would send an envoy to the region to work on the issue before the end of the week. Two Lebanese soldiers were killed and a third was wounded in the south as they tried to defuse an Israeli land mine. Alexander Ivanko, a spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon, said protests had been lodged with Israel on Tuesday over truce violations. Hundreds of youths clashed with riot police in Turkey's capital Ankara, protesting against parliament's decision to send soldiers to Lebanon. The parliament voted on Tuesday to contribute non-combat troops to the U.N. force, due to be beefed up from its pre-war 2,000 to 15,000. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who met Annan in Ankara, declined to say how many troops would go but officials have said the number was unlikely to exceed 1,000. Israeli troops withdrew from nine more border posts they had occupied in the war, Lebanese security sources said. Annan has said Israel should complete its pullout once 5,000 U.N. troops were on the ground. The U.N. force now numbers 3,100. A French battalion with tanks and artillery is due next week and another Italian contingent is set to be deployed.

(Additional reporting by Beirut, Jerusalem, Ankara, Cairo and Paris bureaux)

Monday, September 04, 2006

My personal input

It's been a while since I have included my own thoughts as opposed to publishing the various articles, facts and pictures so here goes:

The situation here is really really bad.
The ongoing blockade is preventing economic recovery and reconstruction as we are unable to get any products / supplies into the country (including material for reconstruction) other than the various governmental aids.
This year many many parents will not be able to put their children through school because they are either out of jobs (the level of mass layoffs have reached critical and fatal proportions) or the company they are working for, although has not fired them, is unable to pay them any salaries. I have heard that a staggering 75% of the country's workforce is unemployed.
Businesses are unable to provide any products to their customers as they cannot receive them from their suppliers so no orders are being placed in either direction.
Supermarket shelves are practically empty and only the bare necessities are being imported through Syria but at dramatically expensive prices because of the increased costs and risk levels of transportation.
I have received reports that as of next week we will have a shortage of chicken to eat as we have run out of food to feed them. I am sure that it is the same for other animals as well.
The sea is heavily polluted because of the oil spills and carrying high cancer risks and the fish and other sea produce are poisoned so people are afraid to eat fish.
Agriculture is in the worst shape because although the fighting has stopped, farmers are unable to collect the remaining produce as the fields are filled with landmines which need to be dismantled and disposed of and every day of delay is causing more loss and damaged goods.
Restaurants are practically empty because they don't have any fresh food to offer.
Not to mention the on-going fuel problem (although we have received some reserves, we can run out at any moment), the lack of supplies for hospitals and the lack of medecines...
The young generation (aged 23 to 43) has left looking for a better future elsewhere and the country has a gaping hole in terms of who would be left to pick-up the pieces and rebuild... yet again.
Lebanon's brain-drain has increased 100x folds.
Many middle-aged men have left their families here and are looking for a job abroad especially in Arabic and African countries and a few have even decided to take their wives and children with them despite the harsh living conditions there.
Relationships are being strained and tested for endurance, moods and morals are at the lowest levels and stress is taking its toll on everyone.

What else can I say?
At the very least, I am very grateful because my family and myself are healthy and well and are still living in our home and together so I thank God for everything!
J.

US congressmen pay visit to Children's Cancer Center

US congressmen pay visit to Children's Cancer Center
By Iman Azzi
Special to The Daily Star


BEIRUT: A US Congressional delegation toured the Children's Cancer Center of Lebanon (CCCL) Saturday as part of a one-day visit to the country. The three representatives - Republicans Ray LaHood of Illinois and Charles Boustany of Louisiana, and Democrat Silvestre Reyes of Texas - delivered $80,000 worth of medicine, a donation from the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman was also in attendance. The delegation was welcomed by senior CCCL officials, as well as medical and administrative staff and volunteers. "Our visit highlights the extraordinary work here," said LaHood, who attended the opening of the CCCL in 2002. The CCCL is an affiliate of St. Jude, as is a clinic in Lahood's hometown of Peoria, Illinois. CCCL medical director Miguel Abboud thanked the congressmen for delivering the medicine, noting that Israel's continuing blockade made it difficult to receive supplies.

Upon return to the United States, LaHood and Boustany, both of whom are of Lebanese ancestry, pledged to pressure Congress to help with Lebanon's reconstruction efforts. The United States Agency for International Development has already pledged to rebuild the Fidar bridge, north of Beirut. "The president put up $230 million plus to help jumpstart the reconstruction of the country. We will go back to our colleagues and urge them to pass this bill and get the money flowing," LaHood said. President George W. Bush's pledge of $230 million was initially met with resistance last week when influential Senator Tom Lantos threatened to put a legislative hold on the aid until Lebanon agreed to have UNIFIL troops on the border with Syria. The three congressmen met Prime Minister Fouad Siniora Saturday morning before touring the CCCL. Later, they ate lunch with several MPs. "The prime minister has shown tremendous courage and foresight. It is necessary to support him and his Cabinet," Boustany said. "Siniora is a political hero for what he has been able to do," LaHood said. "It took a great deal of difficulty to secure this trip. We wanted to send a message to the people of Lebanon to know the US is behind them."

Prepared by: Dr. Marwan Iskandar & President Fawaz El Merheby

The evening of Friday August 11, the Security Council voted Resolution 1701 calling for a ceasefire in Lebanon. The Resolution provided for a force of 15,000 Lebanese army members supported by a beefed up UNIFIL strengthened force of 15,000 to maintain tranquility south of the Litani. The question of Chabaa Farms was to be studied by Secretary Annan with a view to propose a solution in one month, while Israeli withdrawal was to be effected simultaneously with the infusion of Lebanese and UNIFIL forces. Exchange of prisoners was to be negotiated by the U.N. with support from the International Red Cross.

-On Saturday August 12, the Lebanese cabinet endorsed the Resolution and on Sunday the Israeli cabinet did the same. By contrast, Israel took advantage in the remaining hours till 8:00 a.m. on Monday to increase devastation in the South and in the southern suburbs of Beirut. In this area alone, eleven buildings were completely destroyed and 30 civilians at least lost their lives.

-The ceasefire resolution was inevitable after a month of savagery and intense fighting. Human and material losses were immense in Lebanon exceeding 1100 dead and $7 billion off material losses. Israel suffered 175 dead, of whom 30 soldiers during Sunday the 13th, and expended over $2.1 billion on the war. Exhaustion had touched both parties but Israel's image was far more tarnished.

-At 5:00 a.m., Friday August 11 anticipated Israeli bombardment started. It was heavier than usual with air attacks and naval heavy shelling. Israel was keeping its word, it had dropped leaflets the evening of August 10 asking residents of Chiah (northern periphery towards Beirut of the southern suburbs) and Hay Al Sulum (literally meaning the stairs quarters) a suburb of Choueifat, a town overlooking the airport of Beirut, to leave their homes or else.

-Many people will have lost their lives the morning of August 11. Moving away from home is not easy particularly for poor or modest families as are the plurality of residents of both areas, and none of these considerations impinged on Israeli calculations. The Israelis were hurting from Shiite Hizbollah fighters having lost 16 soldiers killed on the 10th of August and all they wanted was to punish civilian Shiite concentrations hoping that evictions and human losses would turn the Shiite masses against Hizbollah.

-The exact opposite effect comes about. Israel has shown superiority in fighting at a distance, by war planes and naval power. Lebanon and Hizbollah had no meaning full anti-aircraft capabilities and a form of surface land launched torpedo against naval power was used successfully by Hizbollah in the early days of the war.

-Since then, Israeli naval vessels kept their distance and when a patrol boat ventured close to Tyre on the 9th of August, it was sunk by a torpedo of the type used before.

-The one month war has shown the futility and brutality of its instruments. Israel uses airpower and naval power to bring about havoc, destruction and human tragedies in Lebanon. Hizbollah employs short and long range rockets which forced Israel to evacuate its northern areas. Israel's capabilities are far greater to bring about devastation. By contrast, however, Israel's foot soldiers helped by heavy armor have lost each confrontation with Hizbollah fighters. And losses of armor to sophisticated anti-tank rocket launchers have exceeded 100 Mirkava tanks in addition to armored troop carriers.

-Israel's security cabinet approved the principal of a land onslaught as of August 9, but the movement was delayed. The Israelis pretend it was because of awaiting the Security Council Resolution on August 11, but they were reluctant because on a broad front with combat between fighting men, the Hizbollah fighters have proven to be better motivated and better trained for guerrilla warfare than the Israelis. In fact, when Israeli forces attacked in great numbers (30,000) 10th to 11th July, they lost in two days of fighting 46 soldiers dead and over 20 tanks and armored carriers. Still they did their best to broaden devastation before the ceasefire Resolution N0. 1701 voted on Friday the 11th was to be implemented.

-By morning of Monday the 14th July, when the ceasefire started at 8:00 a.m., human civilian losses in Lebanon exceeded 1,150 dead compared with 175 in Israel and 3,500 wounded in Lebanon and 1000 in Israel. The Order of Engineers estimated construction areas destroyed, of houses and schools, to equal 4.2 million square meters. To rebuild these areas noted above it would cost around $2.2-2.4 billion. Lebanon's economic losses have been enormous and can be briefly enumerated in the following general descriptive manner:

-Loss of growth in national income $1.4 billion

-Infrastructure losses, including bridges, roads, electric station, water works, industrial plants, $1.2 billion storage facilities, etc...

-Housing $ 2.2 billion

-Loss of government income over four months from VAT, airport charges, port, lack of land $ 0.6 billion registration fees, etc...

-Loss of income from tourism $ 1.5 billion $ 7.1 billion

-This figure is increasing with every day of fighting and it does not reflect the two most painful and significant losses. On the one hand, Lebanon has to rebuild its infrastructure and attractiveness. All the efforts will be expensive and compensatory rather than cumulative. Moreover, of the 220,000 Lebanese who left Lebanon because of the war at least 70,000, a ratio of 30 percent of the total, were young and educated people. Their loss represents a tremendous loss of human capital which has proven to be the most significant contributor to development in the past 50 years. Assuming the lost investment of $100,000 for each of the young and educated who left, our loss in human capital in four weeks exceeds $7 billion or the total of our material losses so far. Possibly a rejuvenated, democratic and plural Lebanon, can in the future, regain most of its young and educated Lebanese who emigrated under duress.

-The war of July-August 2006 waged by Israel against Hizbollah and all of Lebanon is proving futile. Israel's only successes are achieved by remote control of equipment of mass destruction. On land Israel has achieved little with significant losses. For the first time in a war with an Arab party, Israel is faced with the need to evacuate thousands and widespread fear. Also, and in a clear manner, Israel has lost the international public opinion support. This result is obvious from listening to the SKY NEWS, a pro-Israeli television station which carried severe criticism of Israeli brutality.

-Practically all foreign reporters working out of Beirut or along the Lebanese-Israeli border favor Lebanon's position in response to Israeli brutality. Discussions with American, French, British, Canadian, German, Swedish and Polish reporters reveal revulsion at Israel's practices and sympathy for Lebanese woes.

-Let us hope a durable cease-fire resolution is reached as Lebanon closes the sad chapter of the 5th Israeli-Lebanese war fought on Lebanese land since 1978 with no Arab military assistance whatsoever.

Kindly forward this article to all

Prepared by:
Dr. Marwan Iskandar /AUB Alumni Association
BA 1959, MA 1962/President Fawaz El Merheby

Back in Action (Travel & Leisure)

Back in Action
In the years since Lebanon's civil war ended, the once-divided city of Beirut has emerged from the rubble as a symbol of the new Middle East.
From January 2004
By Mitchell Owens

The sun is brutal, the sea breeze has yet to sweep away the morning's humidity, and the undisputed grande dame of Beirut is far from happy. It's not the heat that's troubling Yvonne Cochrane. Nor is it the recent surgery that's left her dependent on a cane to safely navigate the slick marble floors of her ancestral home, Palais Sursock, a 19th-century Neoclassical mansion on a hillside above the city's harbor. It's the direction in which she feels her birthplace is headed. "When I was a child, this was a garden city," says Lady Cochrane. "We had the best vegetables in the world, the best fruit." The architecture back then was "extremely light," she says, the neighborhoods surrounding downtown full of elegant stucco houses decorated with "the most delicate columns." An ardent preservationist and the widow of an Irish baronet, Lady Cochrane turns her gaze to a dense stand of trees at the back of her Italianate garden. Like the fabled Green Line—a slash of weed-infested, bomb-damaged buildings that divided Beirut into Christian east and Muslim west during the civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1990—the trees separate the Palais Sursock from everything Lady Cochrane abhors. Gleaming waterfront skyscrapers compromise the refreshing breezes ("Without the sea, Beirut would suffocate," she says). Shiny Range Rovers bully their way down narrow side streets. And there's a multistory Virgin Megastore at the foot of Place des Martyrs, a once-bustling downtown square that is now little more than a cluster of tidy parking lots hemmed in by construction sites. "Beirut," Lady Cochrane says flatly, "has been ruined."

One person's ruin is another's phoenix. Occupying a hilly promontory that juts like a shark's tooth from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, the capital of Lebanonhas spent millennia rebounding from destructive elements: devastating tidal waves in the fifth century a.d., bombardment by multi-national forces in 1840, famine during World War I. The bombs and fires of the country's 16-year civil war did more than level the heart of the city and fuse ancient Roman glass vases in the National Museum into iridescent lumps, which are now poignantly displayed in a small case at the top of the museum's grand staircase. They also resulted in approximately 150,000 deaths and scuttled cosmopolitan Beirut's reputation as the Paris of the Middle East, the Pearl of the Levant, transforming this 26-square-mile city of sand-colored buildings and umbrella-shaped pine trees into a universal synonym for carnage, a New Age Guernica. Little more than a decade after the bombs stopped falling, however, Beirut is back in business.

Curtain-wall skyscrapers may not be the proper architectural companions for the exquisite villas remaining from Beirut's time as an outpost of the Ottoman Empire and later the centerpiece of the short-lived French Mandate of Greater Lebanon (1920-46), but as far as many here are concerned, the past is history. The worst faux pas a foreign visitor can make is to ask if one of the 2 million residents comes from east or west Beirut. The firm but dignified answer will invariably be the same: "I'm from Beirut."

Tensions still simmer, of course. The Lebanese government is a close ally of Israel's foe Syria, a Greater Lebanon sibling that was instrumental in ending the bloody civil war. So tourists with Israeli stamps in their passports are barred from visitingLebanon, and Syrian soldiers in camouflage are a familiar presence on Beirut's streets. Geographically and spiritually, the city is whole again and safer than it has been in decades. That reunion is further cemented by the shared wartime deprivations of its populace and by the belief of many that better days have come, with more on the way. As oil-equipment executive Radwan Kassar explained over a glass of anise-flavored arak at Karam, a Christian Liaigre-minimal restaurant in the meticulously rebuilt downtown, Beirutis "experienced so many bad things during the war. Now they just want to grow, to live, to create."

Above the fashionable seaside promenade known as Avenue de Paris, the towering Beirut Hilton still stands in all its bomb-damaged ignominy ("It's an eyesore," a disgusted pedestrian said when I stopped to snap a picture of the abandoned hostelry). But at its flanks, bulldozers and construction cranes witness the multimillion-dollar redevelopment efforts of Solidère, formally known as La Société Libanaise pour le Développement et la Reconstruction du Centre-Ville de Beyrouth. The organization was founded in 1994 by Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and dedicated to the rebirth of the smoldering remains of central Beirut. In the years since, Solidère and Hariri have been dogged by accusations of everything from outright graft to blindly constructing high-rent stores and office buildings rather than addressing the housing needs of ordinary Beirutis (the average income is about $200 a month). Whatever its faults, even Solidère's detractors agree that the company has fueled a surge of improvements. Everywhere you look, construction cranes stretch into the endlessly morphing skyline, blurring the line between what's being torn down, what's being built, and what's just a shrapnel-pocked relict waiting to be revived. One of Solidère's latest ventures stands across a magnolia-lined avenue from downtown: Saifi Village, a New Urbanist-style neighborhood of winding cobblestoned streets lined with apartment buildings, town houses, and shops, done in Arabic and French-colonial style. (Beirut-born Reem Acra, the celebrated New York wedding-gown designer, recently bought an apartment here, which she's busily decorating long-distance.) Though Saifi Village appears not unlike the densely woven, mixed-use cityscape seen in pre-war photographs, critics complain that it and the shopping arcades of the city centerhave about as much soul as a theme park. Philippe Starck, who is collaborating on a hotel-and-entertainment complex just south of downtown, has dismissed Saifi's neo-traditional romanticism as "the architecture of what was." The critics have a point: buildings in Beirut can be numbingly pristine. One particularly egregious example is the Maronite Cathedral of St. George, an 1890 landmark that was gutted during the war. Today, along with hundreds of acres that surround it, the cathedral has been restored to film-set perfection, right down to the installation of creamy marble so lustrously polished, so free of any flaws, it might as well be Corian.

Still, to many observers, brand-new is better than scorched rubble. "The important thing is that Beirut is being rebuilt," explains Annabel Karim Kassar, one of the city's top architects (and wife of entrepreneur Radwan). "Give it ten years and the newness will wear off," adds the Paris native, whose firm is involved in transforming the battle-scarred souks a few blocks east of downtown. Right now the site is just a thicket of reinforcing rods and freshly poured concrete, but one day it will be a 360,000-square-foot, $100 million retail destination with a major department store (rumor has it, Galeries Lafayette), a gold and jewelry district, a children's museum, restaurants, an IMAX theater, and a traditional souk of about 200 shops. Kassar also devised the harem-hip décor of Marrakech, a striking Moroccan restaurant that's entirely underground, reached by a room-sized round glass elevator furnished with banquettes. Aboveground is the elevator's sculptural machinery, designed by architect Bernard Khoury. Beirut's answer to Ian Schrager, Khoury also came up with the idea of setting a nightclub, B-018, inside a former military bunker.

As any cabdriver navigating the disconcertingly sign-free streets will tell you, the Lebanese economy remains unsteady, burdened by more than $30 billion in debt, thanks to loans from abroad. The $3 billion annual payments dismay Lebanese high and low, but it's nonetheless apparent that local and foreign investors are banking on Beirut's future. Luxury hotels are sprouting along the waterfront, such as the Monroe, where the retro-chic lobby is decorated with a constellation of George Nelson starburst clocks. The once-genteel, now-gritty neighborhood of Gemmayze, a couple of blocks north of downtown, is slowly becoming a SoHo by the sea, as colorful cafés like Adam and Food Yard open on Rue Gouraud amid dilapidated 1950's apartment buildings and hole-in-the-wall spice shops. To underscore the city's rebirth, Solidère has approached some of the world's great architects, including France's Jean Nouvel, the mind behind Landmark Riad Sohl, a $150 million mixed-use complex going up on a landfill near downtown. Prada-clad Muslim beauties in color-coordinated hijabs (head scarves) lunch at People, the recently opened restaurant at the upscale Aïshti department store ("the Barneys of Beirut," Reem Acra calls it), where executive chef Franck Paulmier serves up nouvelle cuisine in a glass-walled penthouse with all-white décor. Another hot dining room is the Khoury-designed Centrale, with prime seating beneath angular tented pavilions on a garden terrace. And the dozens of raucous bars and moody nightclubs lining both sides of Rue Monot are the best in the Middle East (the happy-hour margarita ritual at the Tex-Mex restaurant and bar Pacífico is a society darling). But take note: nobody would dream of showing up until 11 p.m. or heading home until three or four in the morning, often with new friends in tow.

"Beirutis are very social," says Amer El-Masri, a 23-year-old bartender at Zinc, a seriously cool restaurant and lounge housed in a remodeled Ottoman villa in Achrafiye, a largely high-rent residential neighborhood that has its share of places to eat (like the opulent Al Mijana), fast-food spots, and antiques shops. "You sit down next to somebody at a bar and the next thing you know, you're going to dinner with them." So, who's scooping up the latest Manolo Blahniks at the department store Aïshti and packing the dance floor at the B-018 disco? Not many Americans; at least, not yet. U.S. tourism in Lebanon, historically the most laid-back and secular of Middle Eastern countries, has all but disappeared in the last two years. But visits are up from Gulf Arabs, who are attracted as much by Beirut's party-hearty reputation ("Even during the war, people went out and had fun," says Rawya El Chab, manager of Adam restaurant) as they are by its brand-name blandishments. Downtown outposts of Gucci, Ralph Lauren, and Bulgari, along with blue-chip jewelers like Aziz & Walid Mouzannar, have made the city a must-stop for oil-emirate sybarites.

It's not all flash, though. The junk shops in and around Rue Basta serve up a satisfying smorgasbord of Victorian opaline lamps, funky mid-century light fixtures, and Art Moderne furniture. Over on Rue Abdel Al-Ras in Hamra—a leafy district that has been home to the American University of Beirut and its gloriously neo-Gothic buildings since 1866—is XXe Siècle, a sunny two-story gallery where pioneering young dealer Souheil Hanna showcases mint-condition furniture and lighting from the 1940's and 50's. Maria Hibri and Hoda Baroudi's design firm Bokja keeps the bohemian set happy by upholstering old furniture in vintage textiles and selling it at invitation-only exhibitions (Hibri also co-owns Aloha, an elite flower shop with outposts in Abu Dhabi and Dubai). A couple of blocks from Hotel Phoenicia, a 1960's-swank landmark near Avenue de Paris that was restored in 2000 with wincingly bright crystal chandeliers and acres of gilt, Artisans du Liban et d'Orient sells sophisticated updates on local handicrafts, including filmy caftans that any Paris couturier would envy, modern chairs made of woven reeds, and sleek polished-steel occasional tables.

Sure, the shopping's great, the food is top-notch, but what really keeps Beirut from becoming just another storied tourist trap is the reclamation of its pre-war soul. Whatever their religious, ethnic, or political background, Beirutis are just as likely to send visitors to check out the hand-embroidered bed linens made by Muslim widows (sold at Ashghalouna, a charity shop and tearoom in the Zarif neighborhood) as they are to recommend similar wares made by refugee Palestinian Christians (you can get them at Al-Badia in Hamra). Even Lady Cochrane admits that though the buildings and gardens of her youth may be gone, the cultural cohesion of Beirut still survives. She proudly points out, "I have a Muslim daughter-in-law and an American daughter-in-law." Small wonder the proprietors of the Hard Rock Café have emblazoned a particularly resonant Beatles phrase on the building's façade: "The time will come when you see we are all one." In Beirut, that time is now.

THE FACTS
In Beirut, most people speak English, and there's no need to exchange dollars for Lebanese pounds. U.S. currency is accepted throughout the country and dispensed from ATM's.
WHERE TO STAY
Albergo Hotel DOUBLES FROM $275. 137 RUE ABDEL WAHAB EL-INGLIZI; 961-1/339-797;
www.albergobeirut.com
Hotel Phoenicia InterContinental DOUBLES FROM $265. RUE MINET EL-HOSN; 800/327-0200 OR 961-1/369-100; www.ichotelsgroup.com
Monroe Hotel DOUBLES FROM $165. RUE JOHN F. KENNEDY; 961-1/371-122 www.monroebeirut.com
WHERE TO EAT
Al Mijana DINNER FOR TWO $50. RUE ABDEL WAHAB EL-INGLIZI; 961-1/328-082
Adam DINNER FOR TWO $50. RUE GOURAUD; 961-1/560-353
Centrale DINNER FOR TWO $85. RUE SAIFI; 961-1/575-858
Food Yard DINNER FOR TWO $50. RUE GOURAUD; 961-3/477-336
Hard Rock Café DINNER FOR TWO $40. RUE MINET EL-HOSN; 961-1/373-023
Karam DINNER FOR TWO $45. RUE SOUK BAZERKANE; 961-1/991-222
Marrakech DINNER FOR TWO $60. RUE DE DAMAS; 961-1/212-211
Pacifico DINNER FOR TWO $44. RUE MONOT; 961-1/204-446
People DINNER FOR TWO $60. 71 RUE EL-MOUTRANE; 961-1/994-994
Zinc DINNER FOR TWO $40. RUE SEIFEDDINE AL-KHATIB; 961-1/612-612
NIGHTLIFE
B-018 FORUM DE BEYROUTH; 961-1/580-018
SHOPPING
Al-Badia 78 RUE MAKDISSI; 961-1/746-43
0Aloha RUE MAMA; 961-1/700-008
Artisans du Liban et d'Orient 44 SOUK AN NAJJARIN; 961-1/998-822
Ashghalouna RUE FARIS NEMR; 961-1/366-758
Aziz & Walid Mouzannar RUE WEYGAND; 961-1/999-950Bokja RUE MAMA; 961-1/700-008XXe
Siècle RUE ABDEL AL-RAS; 961-1/742-020

Beirut in 9/10 Best City in the World

With reference to my previous post, here is the link to the Travel and Leisure website where Beirut was voted in the top 10 best cities in the world at number 9.

Next to the rank is a ** leading to a disclaimer that the voting was conducted prior to the war and that travelers should consult the 'US State Department's Travel Warnings and Advisories' before planning travel.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Pre-war Beirut wins high honor from travel magazine

Pre-war Beirut wins high honor from travel magazine
Daily Star staff


BEIRUT: To be filed away under "oh so bitterly ironic," the globetrotting lifestyle magazine Travel + Leisure has published its annual list of the world's 10 best cities - and Beirut clocks in at number nine.


The list is based on a survey of 23,000 readers who evaluate some 500,000 hotels, resorts, cruise lines, travel agencies, airlines and more for a round of specialized awards, which serve to buttress the best city awards. This is the first time Beirut has made the cut, though obviously the magazine went to print before the bombs started falling on fabulous destination number nine. The nod from Travel + Leisure comes late in the game of glossy magazines rediscovering Beirut after the end of Lebanon's Civil War. Publications ranging from Conde Nast Traveler and The Financial Times to Wallpaper, the art magazine Frieze and the design magazine Metropolis have all run features on Beirut in recent years. These and other articles like them often follow a predictable pattern - reference the destruction of the Civil War in the first sentence, remind readers that Beirut was once the "Paris of the Middle East" or the "Pearl of the Orient" in the second, and then make clever use of the "phoenix rising from the ashes" metaphor when explaining Beirut's postwar reconstruction (at least this format will require only marginal updating next time around). Still, the Travel+ Leisure win is significant, in that is stems from actual reader feedback. It just hit the newsstands a little late.

The news footage of tens of thousands of foreigners fleeing Beirut's shores on evacuation vessels has no doubt harmed the city's potential as a tourist destination on the make, to say nothing of the damage done by 34 days of heavy Israeli bombardment and a continuing blockade that is prohibiting all air travel into Beirut except through the corridor to Amman. The top-10 list includes the likes of New York, Buenos Aires, Sydney and Rome (another Italian city, Florence, took top honors). - The Daily Star

Donors promise $940 million to Beirut

Donors promise $940 million to Beirut
Officials at stockholm aid conference urge israelis to end blockade
Compiled by Daily Star staff


Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has succeeded in securing more than $940 million from donor states in Stockholm, following a passionate plea to help Lebanon rebuild its people's homes and help a private sector which incurred heavy losses during the war with Israel. Swedish Foreign Minister Jan Eliasson said the amount far exceeded the $500 million target for the donor conference in Stockholm. "The conference has thus met its objective with a wide margin," he said during a news conference following the meeting of 60 states.

Added to previous pledges and commitments for longer-term reconstruction projects, Eliasson said a total of $1.2 billion has been made available to rebuild Lebanon.

Siniora expressed his "great appreciation" to the donor countries after the conference, saying: "Lots of work has been done during the past week in order to preserve the dignity of the Lebanese, and in order to stop the attacks that were carried out against them." He said the conference was successful "not just in terms of show of support and solidarity in the speeches that have been made, but also in the pledges that show once again, that the Lebanese people are not alone." A statement issued at the end of the conference called on Israel to end its air and sea blockade of Lebanon, saying it was a "major impediment to the early recovery process." Earlier in the day, speaking before heads of state and representatives of 60 countries in the Swedish capital, Siniora also stressed that that none of the funds Lebanon receives will be distributed to Hizbullah. Siniora called for urgent financial assistance to help rebuild destroyed infrastructure and restore the villages that were razed during the 34-day Israeli offensive. "Lebanon, which only seven weeks ago was full of hope and promise, has been torn to shreds by destruction, displacement, dispossession, desolation and death. It has been launched back 15 years," Siniora said. He said direct damage to infrastructure and indirect losses such as the loss of tourism amounted to billions of dollars. The government has previously put the figure at $3.6 billion. Siniora said that if Israel did not withdraw from all its positions in Lebanon and unless the "humiliating" air and sea blockade on Lebanon is lifted, "the recovery process, including this conference today ... will be severely undermined."

The European Union has already pledged $54 million for Lebanon's short-term needs. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have pledged $500 million and $300 million respectively for reconstruction purposes.

The conference took place amid growing Western worries that cash handouts from Hizbullah to those whose homes were destroyed or damaged in the war with Israel will entrench the group's popularity. But Siniora played down any involvement by Hizbullah in the rebuilding process from the funds raised in Stockholm. "The conference is being called to assist the Lebanese government, all will be channeled through the government," he told a news conference. "This idea that it will be siphoned one way or another to Hizbullah is a fallacy." Hizbullah has already started handing out cash to the residents of the southern suburbs and the South who lost their homes in the war. The money is aimed at allowing the residents to rent a home for one year until their original homes are rebuilt. "If we are to have real peace and stability in the Middle East, the root causes of this war must be addressed," Siniora said. He urged the UN Security Council to take a leading role to find lasting peace in the region, and called on Israel to recognize Palestinian statehood and "withdraw from all the Arab lands it occupies." UN Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown said international support for Leb-anon would boost the standing of the central government. "If we, the international community, fail in supporting Lebanon now, we fail not just the brave Lebanese people but also their national aspiration for a stable, strong and democratic government that reaches, and supports, all its people throughout the country," he said.

Lebanese officials said the priority for spending was on 10,000 pre-fabricated homes to help some of the 1 million displaced people and make up a shortfall created by damage to 130,000 homes. Another goal was to remove unexploded ordnance, including thousands of cluster bombs. - Agencies

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