Well, let me put it this way: I now have a video of Israeli jet fighters launching missiles right next door to where I live, from 3:30 to 5:30 am. I live in the Christian quarters, but right on the dividing line with southern Beirut, Hezbollah’s stronghold.
I was up all night, until 7 am, on my ninth floor, recording 9nineair raids and outgoing anti-aircraft missiles. I could hear the planes approaching, right above us, and got scared and went inside the first two times.
They were unimaginably loud (more than I remember in 1982 when Israel invaded Beirut), and the bombs were landing near by. The third time on, I was desensitized, and stayed with the video camera on the balcony, captured the missile hitting near Mar Mkhayil Church right down the street, among others. It was surreal: to go to the balcony, film that shit, go inside and watch live Jazeera and Arabiyya coverage of the same thing, except I have better footage (notwithstanding their on the ground post-bombing footage).
I kept going back and forth from the balcony to the TV, about 20 times, filming outside and filming the TV screen repetitively. It was real. It was happening. They announced that Israeli jet fighters are approaching Beirut, then I heard them, I saw them, and I filmed them launch missiles to destroy bridges, buildings, roads, and churches, killing four and injuring dozens. The roads were like a ghost town. I captured those too. What I remember most is the unbelievably close sound of the explosions, then the smoke that I could see directly in front of me. Israel is real. It bombs cities. Terrifies millions of people. Holds them under siege, cuts them off from the outside world by bombing airports, surrounding seaports and destroying main-roads to neighboring countries. This is not TV.
It happened before. I witnessed it 24 years ago. But things like this always seem like they’re happening for the first time, especially when you see the massive missile launched from an F-16 strike its target in a populated neighborhood, all with the naked eye. Bush calls for restraint as Israel “defends” itself. The “war,” and the struggle, on all fronts, will go on.
I slept after 7 am, with one thought: what will I wake up to? How many people will die while I sleep? (Ok, two thoughts).
Bassam Haddad holds a Ph.D. in political science from Georgetown University and has conducted extensive research on the political economy of contemporary Syria. He is also an award-winning filmmaker. Bassam is currently in his home-town of Beirut.