June 02, 2007

Slow on the South Side

It sounds poetic. Life was slow on the south side of Nahr el-Bared today. Nobody going in, nobody going out. It seems Fatah (which is a different faction than the Fatah Islam) is helping the Lebanese army in that part of the camp. The rest of the camp now lies under a slow, but steady bombardment of 155 mm shells.
A soldier looking in the direction of the camp, which lies right between him and the sea.

One thing that never ceases to amaze me about war is how life behind the front line goes on as if there is no war. Less than 3 kilometers always from the camp, which is now completely off limits to journalist, you cannot even reach the northern entrance anymore, people are going about their daily business. Under the cracking of the cannons (shells make an odd cracking sound when they are launched, like lightning strikes) kids play soccer in the streets, friends lounge on an assortment of benches in the garden while playing cards and smoking argileh, cars are being repaired in the garage and the baker bakes his bread.

I read in soldiers’ accounts who were serving on the frontline during WWI (1914-1918) that they felt that life behind the frontline was almost surreal. They were dying by the dozen in muddy trenches, and when they’d be pulled out of the line for a week, they’d be stationed at farms some 5 kilometers away from the front line, and see farmers work the fields, and housewives hang the laundry, and the war simply would not exist anymore.

The camp from a distance. Todays was a 'quiet' day.

People in the vicinity of Nahr el-Bared also seem to be totally oblivious to the fact that fthree kilometer down the street an entire camp is slowly being pulverized, now that it is clear that Fatah Islam members are not going to have themselves extracted that easily.

Well, they hear the pounding of the mortars, and sometimes you can even hear the rockets whistle overhead.
The army lost up to 45 people (of which 7 today), Fatah Islam is looking at over 25 dead, or that’s the number that we can somehow confirm, whereas the number of dead civilians is unknown. There was talk of a cease fire between 3 and 7 in order to get the wounded out, but it never materialized.

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