The Bomb in My Neighborhood: Syrian War Hits Beirut

Franklin Lamb writing from Beirut with a piece that initially featured on Counterpunch on 9th July 2013

This observer’s neighbors seemed to believe, especially over the past year, as most of us did, that the war in Syria would, in one form or another, spill into our neighborhood, Dahiyeh, the Hezbollah stronghold in south Beirut near the Shatila and Burj el Barajeh Palestinian refugee camps.

And now it has with a vengeance.

As this observer left his flat this morning and walked toward his motorbike on Abbas Mousawi Street en route to Shatila Palestinian Camp for a 10:30 a.m.  appointment, at precisely 10:15 a.m. there was a tremendously loud  blast. It seemed to shake our massive 12 story apartment building which had been rebuilt by the WAAD (“promise”) Hezbollah construction enterprise, from the mountain of rubble it was turned into in July of 2006. Leveled as most in the neighborhood were, by American weapons in the service of the Zionist regime still occupying Palestine.

Contrary to media reports, the blast was not on my street, Abass Mousawi, behind Bahman Hospital, but rather down a side street one block over and two east toward the Hezbollah media office near the Hezbollah sponsored Islamic Cooperation Center in the area of Bir al-Abed. The explosion occurred close to the Coop supermarket and Salah Ghandour Square.

Jumping on my motorbike I was one of the first to arrive on the scene face to face with an inferno that initially seemed to engulf ten or so cars in a parking lot surrounded by eight or nine Waad built high-rise apartment buildings, being a few of the more than 250 residential buildings in our neighbourhood levelled during the 33 day July 2006 war.

Finally, it seemed like an eternity, two fire trucks arrived and made their way thru the rapidly expanding chaos as nearby residential buildings with windows blown out started to empty of their inhabitants amidst fears that another blast may be triggered.  A few men joined this observer in pulling the very long hoses close to the inferno as medics arrived and searched for injured.  At press time, 38 neighbors were treated, including several children, at nearby Bahman Hospital and others rushed to Rasoul al-Alham hospital and Cardiac Care Center, ten minutes away on airport road.

I observed a six feet by six feet by around eight foot deep crater at the blast site. As I watched the Red Crescent and Hezbollah emergency services staff care for the injured and the many who were traumatized, the crowd quickly grew to a few thousand, with fear, shock and anger spreading.  Many elderly slumped against walls and curbs dazed while neighbour helped neighbour, especially the young to cope with the effects of the blast which shattered windows and caused serious damage to several nearby residential buildings, including cracks in their walls. There was much panic and shouting, with crying turning to anger and with people caring for the elderly and children with apartment building entrances set up as emergency treatment areas and neighbours helping  reassure one another.

The Hezbollah neighbourhood of Dahiyeh has been for years considered the safest residential area of Beirut due to strong Hezbollah security measures which over the past year have been intensified including the use of packs of explosive sniffing dogs moving up and across the streets and alleys, usually around three in the morning I have noticed since I often work during the night when its cooler and more quiet, and hearing a barking dog is very rare around here.  More scrutiny-security cameras have been placed on utility poles and on rooftops, with security personnel frequently stopping and questioning new arrivals or visitors to the area and at time residents told not to go to their roofs.

Yet, as Syria’s President Bashar Assad noted several months ago, despite intensive security measures taken in Damascus, it is still very difficult to prevent car bombings.

The speculation has already started concerning who committed this act of terrorism, one day before the start of the Holy Month of Ramadan. Whoever is was, caused the carnage by booby trapping a 1998 Renault Rapid. No one has yet claimed responsibility and likely will not.  Hezbollah’s International Relations official Hizbullah MP Ali Ammar told al-Manar that the blast was carried out by the supporters of the so-called American-Israeli project. “There are clear Israeli fingerprints,” Ammar said as he inspected the damage.

The Bir al-Abed bombing , not far from the spot where William Casey ordered  the 1985 CIA bombing  that targeted Shia cleric,  Sayed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, in which 80 citizens were murdered and more than 200 wounded,   is  interpreted but some of the residents in my building, (two families so far telling me they will move),  as simply a message for Hezbollah to leave Syria.  Some local residents told this observer that if it was a typical  al Qaeda operation aiming at maximum civilian deaths, detonating the blast a  few hundred yards in any direction would have left many more victims, according to a Hezbollah bomb specialist.

This observer counted 15 destroyed vehicles and more than 20 damaged. A fierce fire erupted among some of the vehicles sending thick black smoke billowing high into the sky. I also saw gentlemen who I assumed was the parking lot attendant badly wounded.  Another wounded man near him seemed also to be in serious condition.

Reuters has reported five were killed but Hezbollah is denying this report and I met the Hezbollah Media director on the scene and his job was to get the facts straight before the Party of God made any announcements.

For many in my neighbourhood, a major concern is that Syria’s troubles will reopen the wounds of Lebanon’s long civil war but this time with the Sunni community, which by and large supports the Syrian opposition, being pitted against Hezbollah, the powerful Shiite led Resistance organization which supports Syria President Bashar  al-Assad.

A reliable Hezbollah source has just advised this observer that 53 have been wounded but so far no confirmed fatalities have been reported.

This is the second time this year that the Hezbollah stronghold has come under attack following threats of retaliation by Syrian rebels.

The concierge of my building just reported that as of 4 p.m. Beirut time on 7/9/2013, two suspects have been arrested as Hezbollah and authorizes investigate  the blast.

*Franklin Lamb** is doing research in Lebanon and Syria and is reachable c/o


  1. Egypt seems ready to explode out of control at the minute. Seems democracy is only a good idea until somebody we don't like gets in

  2. Anthony:

    The sad fact of life in the middle east is, al-Qaeda are trying to impose sharia law on everyone , their aim is to take over the world and impose it on every nation , People throughout the world have to realise what is actually happening. I have been in conversation with several Muslims, and , they all state the same, Muslims will not Kill Muslims, but , when I put it to them, "So , Who is killing the Muslims", they reply, jihadist , I ask, but they are Muslims are they not, answer is, "NO", they are fundamentalists . To me its a no win situation, they all have the same answer. MORSI was one of those fundamentalists, Broken out of Prison to become a so called leader for the people of Egypt, He was adamant to bring in Sharia Law. Religion should have no say in politics, and , I mean any religion. Morsi was elected to help all the people of Egypt, He Failed To Do That , The people seen what was happening and ,"Did Not Want It". Low and behold who was arrested, Egypt detains al-Qaeda chief's brother

  3. Itsjustmacker,

    but if they are the democratically elected government, the damage done to the concept of democracy and any professed commitment to it is undermined when the type of brutal anti-democratic regime now prevailing in Egypt is endorsed. There was a great piece in the Guardian the other day about the situation and the meaning for democracy.

  4. Anthony:

    Yes, they were democratically Elected, But the major problem was, Morsi started to change the constitution to suit his on agenda, Sharia law, Etc.. , all against the wishes of the people , The people of Egypt did not rise up to Oust Mubarak for this. Did the people of Ireland rise up against the British to have SF sitting in a British Parliament, I for one don't think so. A new constitution is being re-written in Egypt which will bar fundamentalist from standing for elections. Once that is done , power will be handed over to those elected. That's my take on it.

  5. Itsjustmacker,

    I understand the problems with Sharia Law but that is something there should be constitutional protections against not the overthrow of a democratically elected government. I can't abide by the mullah men either but why should they not be allowed to stand for election? This is the very stick they wish to beat democracy over the head with.

  6. Anthony:

    It seems that is exactly was is supposed to be happening , That Religion should not be a part of politics withing Egypt.

    No religious group shall be allowed to form a political party. But , I have no doubt in my mind That , If the Military think for one moment that they can take full power in Egypt , The had better have another thought.