August 10, 2006

Dark days in Lebanon.

Here's part of journalist Chris Allbritton's latest post from Beirut:

[In] Beirut, the situation is growing dire. According to Nabil el-Jisr, coordinator for the Higher Relief Commission, Lebanon's power plants have cut down on production in order to stretch out the fuel left in the country, but most estimates gives us about a week of diesel fuel for generators and about the same for gasoline supplies, even with rationing. Three-hour waits in lines get you 10 liters of gasoline these days. I stupidly rented a car after having no end of troubles with hiring drivers, but now I just mainly leave it parked in an attempt to save fuel.

There are almost 1 million people displaced, and no one has any real idea of where they are or what's going to happen to them. El-Jisr said yesterday that about 250,000 were outside the country, but that still leaves 700,000 or so living in schools, shelters, parks or private homes of generous Lebanese. How long will they stay? Where will they go after the fighting stops? (A number of villages in the south are gone, simply wiped off the map, or with a high percentage of ruined houses.) So far, no one has any answers.

Further complicating matters is the cultural clash. Most of the displaced now squatting in various Beirut locales are poor, traditional Shi'ites. (Some Christians, too, but not many.) There's a growing tension between Sunnis and Shi'ites, and I encountered growing resentment — and outright classism — among Sunnis toward the Shi'ites. If this keeps up, Sunnis and Christians will be blaming "the Shi'ites" instead of Hizbullah for this war. And that's a recipe for social conflict.

Down in Tyre, my colleagues are forced to walk in the city now, as no one is willing to take a car on the road, much less out of the city. The Israelis have dropped leaflets saying any vehicle seen moving will be assumed to be Hizbullah and destroyed. Note that all the cars we journalists drive are clearly marked with big "TV" on the sides and roofs delineating us as media. No matter to the Israelis, apparently.

The roads and bridges out of Tyre are blown up anyway. The last remaining dirt causeway that was the only means of getting food and other aid south of the Litani was bombed a couple of nights ago and the Israelis have threatened to blow up any bridge that's built to replace it. Khaled Mansour, the spokesman for the U.N. in Lebanon, told me the organization is waiting for authorization from the IDF to build a bridge but so far, nothing.

It's incredibly serious because according to Mansour, there are between 70,000 and 130,000 people still left south of the Litani river, mainly concentrated in Tyre and Rmaiche, a Christian village south of Bint Jbail. In Tyre, the markets are closed and the shelves are empty anyway. He said that while there is no starvation yet, "They're running out of food very quickly." WIthout a bridge over the Litani, it will be impossible to get food into the region.

Meanwhile, the news is talking about the Israeli military's plans to occupy southern Lebanon up to the Litani River. And the rest of the world — especially Dubya's administration — does little or nothing to help end the war.

Via Back to Iraq.

Posted by Magpie at August 10, 2006 12:57 AM | Mideast | Technorati links |