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 18, 2006

TELL US OR WE KILL YOU AND YOUR FATHER

I went to the ancient city of Baalbek deep in the Bekaa Valley. Baalbek was, and is, the seat of the Hezbollah party. There were 7 of us in a mini-van from Beirut - about a two hour drive. 3 Dutch human rights observers, an American-Palestinian, and 2 women from the International Action Center (IAC) of Ramsey Clark. I knew one of them, Sara Flounders, with whom I had been in Iraq in 2001with a Ramsey Clark delegation. The main reason was to see and talk with ordinary citizens and anyone else about their experiences.

We did spend one hour at what The Lonely Planet guide calls "Baalbek, Is the most impressive ancient site in Lebanon and arguably the most important Roman site in the Middle East. Its temples were built on an extravagant scale that outshone anything in Rome".

We arrived in Baalbek in mid-morning. We saw some of the damage inflicted by the Israeli Army. By comparison it was nothing like what we saw in other towns (I previously described the total destruction of Aaita Al Shaeb in my blog at http://www.daninlebanon.blogspot.com/ titled The Painted Lady). 'Nothing like' is a rather strange term when describing the destruction of people's lives and property. But in war we often use relative terms.

For background: About 10 days into the war the Israeli military surprised everyone with a raid, by helicopter, on Baalbek. They entered a hospital, searched homes and took five men to Israel. At the time it was thought that Israel was looking for high officials in Hezbollah or even for Nasralla himself.

When we got to Baalbek 75 year old Hajj Abrahim Jamal would translate at the home of Mr. Hassan Nasralla (not THE Nasralla). Mr. Nasralla had his eldest son taken to Israel during the raid.

I will now write what Mr. Nasralla said via Hajj Jamal (Hajj is a prefix of honor or to designate someone who has been to Mecca - he said he had been there).

"American F16 planes fired on the town and then the helicopters landed. The F'16's continued to circle above the city. Perhaps 200 soldiers left the helicopters and some surrounded our small section of the town. They told all 14 of us to get out of the house and stand in the street with our hands in the air. They asked where is Nasralla - and I answered I am Nasralla. But they were not looking for this Nasralla.
I have three sons - the 5 year old - with his hands in the air cried don't kill me.

Next they put plastic handcuffs on five men including my eldest son (not sure of his age - Dan) and also our 13 year old son. The marched them up the mountain. We did not know if we would see them again. They walked the men for over an hour and then halted. My 13 year old son was pulled aside and a soldier put a rifle to his head and demanded to know where Nasralla was. My son did not respond. The soldier, still with the rifle at my sons head again demanded to know where Nasralla was and said if you do not tell me who is Hezbollah I will kill you and then go back and kill your father. My son said I am not Hezbollah. (my thoughts > it is not possible for me to put myself in the boys place - just consider that the boy had every reason to believe that he would be killed and still kept quiet - Dan).

At this point the soldier told my 13 year old to go back down the mountain, still with his hands behind his back. On the way home an Israeli drone flew overhead. A few minutes later the road in front and behind was struck by some kind of explosive from the drone. My son was not injured and returned to us.

The 5 other men including my older son were taken to Telavive (bad spelling) in Israel.
They were released about 21 days later and returned via the UN forces and then the Lebanese Red Cross. My son said he hardly slept during his captivity because of worries for his wife and child. My son said that they were subject to repeated interrogation but they were not otherwise ill treated.

We did not get to the hospital; however, we were told that some of the equipment had been destroyed by the military; however, the damage was 'light'. We were not able to confirm this.

In conclusion, he said, most Lebanese Shiites like Americans but not George Bush.
I was shocked, simply shocked at this view of our beloved president (just in case there is an unauthorized reader of my emails !!!).
Peace, Dan

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