Reporting from Lebanon

This blog contains Dan Winter's live reports from Beirut Lebanon. Dan is a long time peace activist from Boulder Colorado.  He has been to Iraq 3 times and Palestine once.  He is  opening a non-profit office in Beirut to provide services for volunteers and the media.  Contact him for assistance.

Monday, September 11, 2006

From South Lebanon

THE PAINTED LADY – South Lebanon

She had been a painted lady of delicate colors.
Not sexual but quite sensuous.
Now the mascara had run onto the alabaster
and she wore her age with scant dignity.

This is how I saw but one of many houses destroyed in the city of Aaita Al Shaeb in the very south of Lebanon. The windows were gone and the fire had blackened the façade beneath. This is (was) the town near where the two Israeli soldiers were captured. I say “was” because very little of the town was left.

I went to four towns over the weekend with a group of Lebanese volunteers bringing medicine, food, clothes and water to the south since the cease fire began. There had also been international volunteers with them on previous occasions. Now there was enough water and food and clothes but not enough medicine – especially medicine to treat chronic illness.

I spent some time just walking with residents or on my own. I was told of who lived here and who died there – that “my uncle was killed during the first week” and that a new born had not been spared. Many would not stay and some could not leave.

In this town, perhaps more of a village, of Aaita Al Shaeb (population about 1,000) I was told that only 15 houses had escaped damage – I only saw one. House after house and street after street suffered from massive damage. The “less damaged” houses had one or two rooms left somewhat intact. No house had running water (bottled water was available) and there had been no electricity since early July (over 6 weeks). Perhaps 10% of the population had stayed or returned.

One story that stayed with me was that of an 84 year old woman. A missile hit the house next door to her but did not explode. It came through two wall of that house and through the wall of her kitchen still unexploded. Later that day she was found, in good health, with her ear to the missile trying to hear if it was ticking. I saw it, from a distance, and it was about four feet long leaning at a diagonal angle in the corner of the kitchen with part of the head badly dented. In the army I had some training in ordinance disposal but to me there did not seem to be a good way to defuse it. I was later told that the missile would be blown up in place along with what was left of the house.

The Israeli military evidently wanted to make it clear that Aaita Al Shaeb would suffer the consequences of "allowing" Hezbollah to capture 2 soldiers. Survivors took us to the edge of the valley facing the direction Israel had come from. One Israeli bulldozer was torn and hardly identifiable. It, and others, had come up from the valley and started to bulldoze houses. The villagers said Israel was going to try to level the entire town. Hezbollah fighters counter-attacked with small arms fire and RPG's forcing Israel to abandon trying to obliterate the town. Israel forgot that when people fight for their homes, their stores, their town - then every inch is revered and has a place in their hearts and it is not so easy to defeat them. The fight went from house to house and from street to street. Israel used tanks, our jets and our bombs to take a terrible toll on the village. The village was destroyed but I think the "victory" left the taste of salt in their mouths.

I walked alone on one especially wounded street with my camera in my hand.I wondered if there were enough film in the world to capture the image of shattered walls, twisted steel, deserted store fronts and mangled cars. And then I started to cry. I never knew you can cry for buildings

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