Don’t leave us alone in Beirut

Destruction in Hay Madi, a southern suburb of Beirut, after an Israeli airstrike. Photo taken 20 July 2006 (Hugh Macleod/IRIN)

So it’s Saturday. The day we fear. It seems the Israelis will have to postpone some of whatever plans they might have: the evacuations are not done yet. The French still have people leaving tomorrow, the Canadians too. There are growing reports about the segregation of the US evacuations: they have priorities … white ones. I’m sorry I can’t confirm, but my friends holding US passports keep telling me about it. I don’t have time to investigate it. I’m working with the people fleeing their villages and homes.

Hamra (neighborhood in West Beirut, not targeted yet) was almost booming this morning. There were even traffic jams in the streets where some of the embassies asked their citizens to go to to be evacuated. There are also people who are shopping: food, bread, necessities that is. Hamra is hosting loads of displaced people from both the South and the Southern Suburb. There are also people who just need to go out for a walk. I even spotted two lovers walking hand in hand in one of the streets.

All this is happening today because last night Beirut and its suburb were spared air strikes. It’s weird, the ability of human beings to cope and go on no matter what. One “calm” evening and it somehow feels like we’re back to normal again. We, here in Beirut, can afford it. Some of my friends who live in the Southern Suburb went there yesterday to check on their houses and bring some of their stuff. They weren’t able to find their homes. Whole neighborhoods are completely destroyed, they weren’t even able to recognize in which streets they were.

Some people were able to reach Beirut from the South over the past couple of days. They tell hideous stories about what they witnessed there, about how they fled and what they encountered on the roads, about the people they left behind, some alive and some buried under the rubble. I feel you should read their stories, but I really don’t have time to translate the articles we publish in As-Safir. But for those of you who read Arabic they’re all on our website. If any of you wants to use them and translate them, please feel free to do so, but I only need you to mention As-Safir as the source.

When I started writing this message the Israeli fighter jets had just bombed three aerials in the Tourboul in the north, in Sanine in the east and in Fatqa east of Beirut. These are TV and mobile phone aerials.

They might want to cut off the rest of the world. They might not … but just in case, I’m trying to find a way to keep you posted, at least with pictures. I need you then to spread them as much as possible. And if I don’t succeed in doing that, keep checking the wires. I’m sure the reporters on this list have free access to the news agencies. PLEASE CIRCULATE ANY PICTURES YOU GET.

And if all this fails, then keep talking about us. Don’t leave us alone in Beirut. Now, in case this conspiracy theory of mine proves to be wrong, and I’d still be able to reach you people, then we’ll all laugh together and I’ll manage to accept criticism about how naive I am.

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Hanady Salman is an editor at As-Safir newspaper