Sunday, July 23, 2006

From the NYTimes... I had to post it.

To Flee or to Stay? Family Chooses Too Late and Pays Dearly

SIDIQEEN, Lebanon, July 23 — Muntaha Shaito’s eyes rolled back as the paramedics screamed at her to stay awake and implored her son Ali to keep her engaged, as she teetered near death from shrapnel wounds inflicted by an Israeli rocket.

“Pray to God!,” one paramedic shouted at her as she writhed in Ali’s arms.

“Don’t go to sleep Mama, look at me!,” Ali shouted, tears streaking his bloodied face. “Don’t die, please don’t die!”

It was the scene that members of the extended Shaito family said they had feared most, the real reason they had held out for days in their village of Tireh in southern Lebanon, terrified of the Israeli bombardment, but more terrified of what might happen if they risked leaving. On Sunday they gave up their stand, and all 18 members crammed into the family’s white Mazda minivan. They planned to head north toward the relative safety of Beirut.

Within minutes they became casualties of Israel’s 12-day-old bombardment of southern Lebanon, which the Israelis say they will continue indefinitely to destroy the military abilities of Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group. By the Lebanese official count, Israel’s attacks have killed more than 380 Lebanese.

An Israeli rocket, which Lebanese officials said was likely fired from a helicopter, slammed into the center of the Shaitos’ van as it sped round a bend a few miles west of their village, and the van crashed into a hillside. Three occupants were killed: an uncle, Mohammad; the grandmother, Nazira; and a Syrian man who had guarded their home. The missile also critically wounded Mrs. Shaito and her sister. Eleven others suffered less severe wounds.

“They said leave, and that’s what we did,” said Musbah Shaito, another uncle, as his niece, Heba, 16, cried hysterically behind him for her dead father, whose head was nearly blown off. This reporter watched as paramedics struggled to remove the dead from the van, but soon gave up, as an Israeli drone hovered overhead.

“This is what we got for listening to them,” Mr. Shaito said, speaking of the Israelis.

The Shaitos came from a farming village about five miles from the Israeli border in a region known for tobacco, citrus and olive crops. They had waved a white flag from the van, signifiying to Israeli aircraft that they were non-threatening, Mr. Shaito told reporters later.

The Israeli military said in a statement that its aircraft operations over southern Lebanon on Sunday had targeted “approximately 20 vehicles” suspected of “serving the terror organization in the launching of missiles at Israel, and were recognized fleeing from or staying at missile-launching areas.” The military did not comment on specific bombings, but cited the area south of Tyre, where the Shaitos were driving, as “an area used continuously by Hezbollah to fire missiles.”

Bombing victims, witnesses and officials interviewed in the area on Sunday said Israeli warplanes hit people escaping by vehicle from their villages at least six times in a day of fierce bombardments. Lebanese Red Cross ambulance drivers complained about narrowly avoiding Israeli fire themselves as they cleared out the wounded, and a Lebanese freelance photographer, Layal Najib, 23, was killed when an Israeli missile struck near her car, about five miles from near the scene of the Shaito family bombing.

Israeli forces have sought to clear the area of all residents, in what seemed to be an attempt to separate the civilians from Hezbollah fighters hidden in the hills and villages. Just days earlier leaflets dropped by Israeli planes warned residents to leave the area and head north of the Litani River, effectively making the area a free-fire zone.

A drive through the southern villages on Sunday morning was like a tour through a string of ghost towns, with most residents having cleared out or holed up in their homes, as Israeli aircraft continued their bombardment. Roads were bombed, making passage difficult or impossible, and fields were scorched as the hulks of bombed cars littered the roads. All but a few stores were shut, with glass and rubble littering the streets.

The families in Tireh had preferred to stay home, but with dwindling supplies and Israel’s warning to evacuate, many of them decided it was time to go.

There were only about 52 people left in Tireh when most left for Beirut in a convoy this weekend, leaving the Shaitos largely to fend for themselves. Without much food or water, the family gave up its stand early Sunday.

Family members included Muntaha Shaito and her boys, Ali, 13, and Abbas, 12; her brother in-law Mohammad and his two daughters, Heba, 14, and Kawther, 17; and several other relatives.

They packed into their van, with all their money and valuables, and raced toward Tyre, the big southern seaport about 15 miles west.

It proved a day of carnage for the Zabad and Suroor families, too, said family members and medical staff members who treated them.

The Zabad family and their relatives, the Suroors, who were desperate enough to break into shuttered stores to steal food in the town of Mansoureh a few miles away, gave up their stand, too, on Sunday.

Minutes before Red Cross ambulances carted away the Shaito family, the Suroor family barreled down the road headed toward Tyre, with the Zabad family right behind.

When the Zabads spotted a wounded man on the road, they stopped and picked him up in their Nissan sport utility vehicle. They stopped again to pick up two men who had been attacked on a motorcycle and got even farther behind the Suroors.

Suddenly a missile hit the Suroors’ Mercedes sedan, killing Mohammad Suroor, the father, and Darwhish Mdaihli, a relative, and severely burning Mohammad’s son, Mahmoud, 8, and wounding his two brothers and sister.

As soon as the Zabads saw the car hit, they sped past, hoping to get to the Najm Hospital, less than a mile away. But a minute later a missile struck near them, setting the car on fire, and the family jumped out. .

The scene was chaotic at Najm hospital, on the outskirts of Tyre, which has been flooded with wounded from the bombing campaign. Doctors rushed to X-ray several of the victims, checking for shrapnel, as others where treated for burns and other injuries. For a short while, the hospital nurses rubbed cream on an 8-month-old baby for burns until they found her mother, Mrs. Suroor.

Despite the severe burns on his face, Mahmoud Suroor turned to his mother while in the emergency room and asked where his father was. She did not respond. Then he turned again to his mother.

“Don’t cry Mama, we’ll all be O.K.,” he said.

What a bomb sounds like

Beirut on the 21st of July.
It set off a car alarm despite being miles away...

Links about Lebanon Israeli conflict

The IDF now holds the village of Maroun al-Ras. The link is a sat map of the town (you may have to zoom it out a bit).

  • Maroun al-Ras

  • Haaretz
  • -A good and accurate Israeli paper

  • Daily Star
  • -The only english language daily in Lebanon

    How it feels to live in Beirut right now.
  • Blogging Beirut

  • I pulled this off that site:
    What I am now watching in Lebanon each day is an outrage

    By Robert Fisk in Mdeirej, Central Lebanon

    Published: 15 July 2006

    The beautiful viaduct that soars over the mountainside here has become a " terrorist" target. The Israelis attacked the international highway from Beirut to Damascus just after dawn yesterday and dropped a bomb clean through the central span of the Italian-built bridge ­ a symbol of Lebanon's co-operation with the European Union ­ sending concrete crashing hundreds of feet down into the valley beneath. It was the pride of the murdered ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri, the face of a new, emergent Lebanon. And now it is a " terrorist" target.

    So I drove gingerly along the old mountain road towards the Bekaa yesterday ­ the Israeli jets were hissing through the sky above me ­ turned the corner once I rejoined the highway, and found a 50ft crater with an old woman climbing wearily down the side on her hands and knees, trying to reach her home in the valley that glimmered to the east. This too had become a " terrorist" target.

    It is now the same all over Lebanon. In the southern suburbs ­ where the Hizbollah, captors of the two missing Israeli soldiers, have their headquarters ­ a massive bomb had blasted off the sides of apartment blocks next to a church, splintering windows and crashing balconies down on to parked cars. This too had become a "terrorist" target.

    One man was brought out shrieking with pain, covered in blood. Another " terrorist" target. All the way to the airport were broken bridges, holed roads. All these were "terrorist" targets. At the airport, tongues of fire blossomed into the sky from aircraft fuel storage tanks, darkening west Beirut. These too were now "terrorist" targets. At Jiyeh, the Israelis attacked the power station. This too was a " terrorist" target.

    Yet when I drove to the actual headquarters of the Hizbollah, a tall building in Haret Hreik, it was totally undamaged. Only last night did the Israelis manage to hit it.

    So can the Lebanese be forgiven ­ can anyone here be forgiven ­ for believing that the Israelis have a greater interest in destroying Lebanon than they do in their two soldiers?

    No wonder Middle East Airlines, the national Lebanese airline, put crews into its four stranded Airbuses at Beirut airport early yesterday and sneaked them out of the country for Amman before the Israelis realised they were under power and leaving.

    European politicians have talked about Israel's "disproportionate" response to Wednesday's capture of its soldiers. They are wrong. What I am now watching in Lebanon each day is an outrage. How can there be any excuse ­ any ­ for the 73 dead Lebanese civilians blown apart these past three days?

    The same applies, of course, to the four Israeli civilians killed by Hizbollah rockets. But ­ please note ­ the exchange rate of Israeli civilian lives to Lebanese civilian lives now stands at one to more than 15. This does not include two children atomised in their home in Dweir on Thursday whose bodies cannot be found. Their six brothers and sisters were buried yesterday, with their mother and father. Another "terrorist" target. So was a neighbouring family with five children who were also buried yesterday. Another "terrorist" target.

    Terrorist, terrorist, terrorist. There is something perverse about all this, the slaughter and the massive destruction and the self-righteous, constant, cancerous use of the word "terrorist". No, let us not forget that the Hizbollah broke international law, crossed the Israeli border, killed three Israeli soldiers, captured two others and dragged them back through the border fence. It was an act of calculated ruthlessness that should never allow Hizbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, to grin so broadly at his press conference. It has brought unparalleled tragedy to countless innocents in Lebanon. And of course, it has led Hizbollah to fire at least 170 Katyusha rockets into Israel.

    But what would happen if the powerless Lebanese government had unleashed air attacks across Israel the last time Israel's troops crossed into Lebanon? What if the Lebanese air force then killed 73 Israeli civilians in bombing raids in Ashkelon, Tel Aviv and Israeli West Jerusalem? What if a Lebanese fighter aircraft bombed Ben Gurion airport? What if a Lebanese plane destroyed 26 road bridges across Israel? Would it not be called " terrorism"? I rather think it would. But if Israel was the victim, it would probably also be World War Three.

    Of course, Lebanon cannot attack Tel Aviv. Its air force comprises three ancient Hawker Hunters and an equally ancient fleet of Vietnam-era Huey helicopters. Syria, however, has missiles that can reach Tel Aviv. So Syria ­ which Israel rightly believes to be behind Wednesday's Hizbollah attack ­ is not going to be bombed. It is Lebanon which must be punished.

    The Israeli leadership intends to "break" the Hizbollah and destroy its "terrorist cancer". Really? Do the Israelis really believe they can "break" one of the toughest guerrilla armies in the world? And how?

    There are real issues here. Under UN Security Council Resolution 1559 ­ the same resolution that got the Syrian army out of Lebanon ­ the Shia Muslim Hizbollah should have been disarmed. They were not because, if the Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, had tried to do so, the Lebanese army would have had to fight them and the army would almost certainly have broken apart because most Lebanese soldiers are Shia Muslims. We could see the restarting of the civil war in Lebanon ­ a fact which Nasrallah is cynically aware of ­ but attempts by Siniora and his cabinet colleagues to find a new role for Hizbollah, which has a minister in the government (he is Minister of Labour) foundered. And the greatest danger now is that the Lebanese government will collapse and be replaced by a pro-Syrian government which could reinvite the Syrians back into the country.

    So there's a real conundrum to be solved. But it's not going to succeed with the mass bombing of the country by Israel. Nor the obsession with terrorists, terrorists, terrorists.

    Friday, July 21, 2006

    Stuck in Beirut

    My brother is stuck in Beirut, Lebanon right now and he has no way out. The airport has been bombed, the roads out are being bombed and the Israeli navy has imposed a marine blockade. The country’s gasoline and food stores are decreasing because of the blockade plus running water and electricity have been reduced so they are only available for a fraction of the day. This is all bad enough without bombs dropping all around the city. Worrying about his well-being has monopolized my time. I can think of nothing else at home, at work, or hangin with friends. Getting through on the phone has been a nightmare. I had to try about thirty different times spread over 4 hours to finally get through to him. He’s now sitting trapped in our apartment with only the sound of Israeli bombs to keep him company.
    I’m hoping the Canadian government can get him home soon, but right now it looks like it can take a while.
    Hopefullay a ceasefire will come soon and stop this madness.

    Hizballah winning, Israel losing right now.

    According to public statements the Israeli military is attempting to destroy Hizballah and eliminate the “infrastructure of terror.” But most of the targets struck by the Israeli air force (IAF) are not Hizballah infrastructure; the most common targets are roads, bridges, power plants and civilian fuel depots. Also now the IAF has moved on to private business and industry. The road south from Beirut is now dotted with blown out gas station and factories. In fact just yesterday a milk processing plant and a toilet paper factory were both completely destroyed (as reported by the BBC).

    As for the people the cost to the civilian population is far greater. So far about 240 Lebanese civilians have died. Of those the estimate of how many Hizballah members have died is less than ten. In percentage terms that means that more than 95% of the Lebanese killed are innocent. The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) is more efficient at killing civilians by accident than the terrorist group Hizballah is on purpose. So far Hizballah has killed 25 Israeli of which 12 were military personnel. This bombing campaign has a zero percent chance of destroying Hizballah. Its main effects is to sow sectarian division in Lebanon, weaken the democratic Lebanese government and increase support for Hizballah in its Shiite constituency.

    So what does this all mean? Simple, Hizballah is winning and Israel is losing. Support for Hizballah is growing not shrinking. Hizballah ability to fire rockets has not been significantly affected. Every day of bombing makes the Lebanese army’s deployment on the southern border less likely as the continuing conflict weakens the central government. Now there are rumors that Israeli is going to launch a major incursion. The Israeli’s can see that their tactics are not achieving their stated aims. So now they must push the envelope and go in. This is exactly what Hizballah wants. A face to face fight with the enemy they were created to defeat. The current tactics of the IDF has prevented both sides from engaging in a direct confrontation. The Israeli government was trying to avoid such a direct confrontation in order to avoid Israeli military casualties.
    Hizballah fighters have been waiting for this oppotunity for six years. They have lost brothers, fathers and comrades in previous fighting with the IDF throughout the 18-year occupation of south Lebanon. They want to bloody the nose of their sworn enemy and they are confident they have the ability to do so. They live for this. Apart from being well armed and well organized, Hizballah has a vast array of supremely experienced guerrilla fighters. The same fighters that slowly bled the Israeli army in the south of Lebanon until they finally withdrew in 2000. All these veterans are still armed and active in the south. They know how the IDF operates, their tactics have been refined over many years of guerilla warfare. Additionally Hizballah has been preparing for a ground war for six years. They have laid mines, built hidden positions and developed defense plans. Proof of this is abundant. I saw many Hizballah positions in the south when I visited south Lebanon a few years back. So far every time IDF ground forces have entered in the past 10 days it has suffered losses in terms of lives and material. (One skirmish yesterday resulted in the loss of a tank, the death of two soldiers and injuries to six other soldiers. All this without the destruction of the target and the killing of only two militants.)
    The Israeli army on the other hand has lost many veterans of the dirty war. New conscripts have replaced them. Also back during that long 18-year guerilla war Israel armed and funded pro-Israeli Lebanese militia: The South Lebanese Army (SLA). The SLA provided tactical intelligence, Arabic speakers and local knowledge while also fighting Hizballah. The SLA no longer exists. Israel no longer has acquaintances let alone friends in Lebanon to aid it.
    So, in sum you have an inexperienced but powerful first world infantry with little or no local knowledge running into a confident, motivated and entrenched guerilla movement. We have seen this movie before. We have two possible outcomes. One is that the IDF is drawn into a quagmire and takes losses. The other is that the IDF unleashes its full military force against southern Lebanon resulting in massive damage to infrastructure and even larger civilian casualties. Neither of these outcomes will destroy Hizballah. But neither of these outcomes are military victories for Hizballah. But both are political victories for the group. They will absorb the blow, declare victory, announce themselves are the main Arab resistance against Israel, rearm (through Syria and Iran) and live to fight another day. Any damage they can do to the Israeli military will be seen as a great victory; they struck a blow against the Zionist enemy. Any damage Israel does to Hizballah is expected.
    That is the crux of the problem. For Hizballah, victory is confrontation and survival. For Israel victory is the destruction of Hizballah as a viable fighting force. As you can see on threshold is much lower for one than the other. I am not confident that Israel can clear that higher threshold. And a large incursion that fails to destroy Hizballah will lead to a situation where a political solution is going to be very difficult to find.

    Monday, July 10, 2006

    Editors LIVE

    This was recorded on my cell at their show. If you ever get the chance to go see them live do it. I went when a friend told me I HAD to go. I was not (and am still not) a huge fan of their record but their live show was great. Loud, fast-paced, impeccably played and most essentially - fun. They even got a Toronto crowd to get into it. In a town where people yawn at metal shows and get yelled at by Mod Def for being "too cool"; that's saying something.

    Saturday, July 08, 2006

    Why I love Vice Mag

    I'm risking looking like a hipster wannabe but here goes...
    Nothing on the web makes me laugh more consistently than the Vice's "Dos and Don'ts" section. That's why I link to Vice on this page (if I've figured out the html code).
    Just check this pic and blurb.

    "Oh Lord. When nerds discover their inner babe and unleash about a decade of unused libido on the world it makes every hot girl you know seem like a haggard old spinster whose pussy is sealed shut with venereal warts. This girl would be the Farberge Egg of blowjobs."


    I was witness to this scene the other day. I don't really have a comment, just find it strangely poetic.


    I'm going to assume no one will ever read this thing...
    Anyway why am I blogging? Because I consider writing to be a hobby of mine and the only writing I do is professional/academic (dry/boring) or in long, meandering emails to friends (which probably come off as pompous and annoying). Therefore why not have a place where I can write all I want without bothering anyone?

    Any way as I write this I'm doing my best to disrupt a low-budget play being performed in the school parking lot next door. I believe it has something to do with the Fringe Festival that takes place in Toronto every year. It's set is a series of cars and basically involves a lot of yelling, cursing, car horns and bad acting. I've been trying to ignore it for a few evenings but today I'm fighting back using the tried and true method of the asshole: blatant passive-aggressiveness. I dragged a large speaker out my backdoor, pointed it directly at the lot and played my music loudly. I've been playing jazz; I don't want to be that much of an ass. At this instant Jean Jacques Perrey's E.V.A. (sampled by DJ Premier for Gangstarr's Code of the Streets - great song) seems to have drowned out the random "light's green asshole!" and "watch where you're fuckin' going!" emanating from the play.
    So I'm happy... I figure that if I have to put up with a loud theatre troupe two doors down then the troupe might have to put up with some ambient neighborhood noise.
    Wow, I'm a terrible writer.