Thursday, June 28, 2007
Luckily here in Lebanon they have more important things to care about. So if you want to go out for a spin - let me know. 200 km/h...no problem here. Last night took my Audi out for a spin and got to 170 on a 6 km stretch of highway in east Beirut. And its beautiful weather here.
So dear all...pack your bags and buy a single ticket Amsterdam-Beirut. Only problem here is the very tiny seize of the country. Before you know it, you either crash into the border with Syria or a minefield with Israel (not to mention the potholes in the roads, the blown up bridges, the loonies walking on highways...anyway..look at it as some kind of adventure)
DONT FORGET: Come back to this site later today. Because I'll post a little VIDEO ON IT OF ME DRIVING 162 KM/H THROUGH BEIRUT. There are is no traffic police here - so might be fun. Expect video early afternoon or so.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
How to root out Fatah al Islam militants from the camp? My solution: Use CS-gas.
CS gas, better known as tear-gas, is a pretty terrible substance. It effects your lungs, your eyes and your nerve system. It will disorientate you, make you vomit and - especially - cry. As a student in the Netherlands, many years ago, I have frequently tasted CS-gas during anti-government demonstrations. And man, its just not nice stuff. Doesn’t matter how much you try to resist it, you just can’t. It will make you run away. At least that is what I did.
In the Nahr al Bared case, my motto is: Crying is better than dying.
Monday, June 25, 2007
So there is now constant fighting (mini war) in the Nahr al Bared camp in the north, shootings and killings in Tripoli (north too), continuing Hezbollah protest in and around Beirut (center of the country), bombs go off left, right and center in christian Arab area's, and late afternoon, on Sunday too, a roadside bomb killed 5 UNIFIL soldiers in the south of Lebanon.
This is getting seriously ridiculous. Lebanon covers 10.000 square kilometers (four times smaller then the Netherlands and 70 times smaller than the state of Texas). It is not scientifically, but Lebanon seems to have the most problems a square kilometer. (I mean, Iraq being 44 times bigger than Lebanon, has loads of problems too. But a square kilometer, I think Lebanon will still win).
Sunday, June 24, 2007
I arrived in Tripoli at around 06.15 this morning and left the area at 09.30.
This is the situation:
One third floor apartment in the eastern part of Tripoli (in a residential area) has been surrounded by the Lebanese army. There's a ring of soldiers in nearby buildings and on the streets. At around 200 meters you can see a five floor apartment block. Smoke is coming from the third floor. From 06.15 until 07.00 it all seemed quiet. Couple of ambulances evacuate local residents, caught up in the fire between army and possible Fatah al Islam militants in the third floor apartment. Then, very heavy machine gunfire and very loud explosions. More smoke, more bangs, civilians trying to escape. It seems that special units of the Lebanese army are going from floor to floor, apparently trying to snatch Fatah al Islam militants. According to local people, the apartment belongs to the Sayyet family, who own a nearby flower shop.
For people familiar with Tripoli; the area where the fighting takes place is in the eastern part of town. Close to the Al Bayan school and around 800 meters away from the Al Manar university.
According to reports, one soldier died, seven wounded. I haven't seen this though. I only could see how civilians left the area in cars or on foot. From a certain spot, I could clearly see the apartment on the third floor being pounded by the Lebanese army. Lots of smoke and extremely loud explosions. Lots of machine gun fire. As I left the place around 09.30 the fighting was still raging.
It all started around 23.00 last night. Army attacked the apartment after being told by others that Fatah al Islam militants were using the place to store weapons. As we've seen before, the militants started shooting back.
Just to make it clear: the fighting in Tripoli is very localized - basically only around this block of apartments. Still, very surreal. Local people looked pretty shocked and scared. Another weird Sunday morning in Tripoli....
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Van onze correspondent Harald Doornbos
BEIROET (GPD) – Een Nederlandse soldaat heeft begin april per ongeluk zijn wapen in het gras laten liggen nabij een taliban dorp in Uruzgan. Hierdoor beschikt de taliban nu over een uiterst moderne Diemaco C7 semi-automatisch machinegeweer, inclusief een telescoop, zes magazijnen met munitie en een helm.
Dit zegt een zeer betrouwbare bron, die anoniem wil blijven, tegenover deze krant.
Het incident speelde zich af nabij het dorp Surkh-Murghab, waar op 4 april van dit jaar Nederlandse soldaten en hun partners van het Afghaanse Nationale Leger in een hinderlaag werden gelokt door de taliban.
Tijdens de gevechten, aan het einde van de middag, raakte een Nederlandse militair gewond als gevolg van splinters die uit een machinegeweer vlogen dat werd afgevuurd door een andere Nederlandse soldaat. In een poging de gewonde soldaat in veiligheid te brengen, probeerden Nederlandse collega’s hem richting een gepantserd voertuig te slepen. Ondertussen vuurden talibanstrijders in de richting van de Nederlanders.
Een van de Nederlandse soldaten, een ziekenverzorger, deed daarop zijn wapen af in een poging om de gewonde collega beter te kunnen helpen. In de chaos van de strijd sprongen de soldaten samen met de gewonde militair in de pantserwagen. Kort daarop kwam de ziekenverzorger erachter dat hij zijn wapen in het gras had laten liggen. Het was toen echter te laat en te gevaarlijk om terug te keren.
Het gaat om een nieuwe Diemaco C7, een semi-automatisch machinegeweer. Op het wapen zat een standaard telescoop gemonteerd, waardoor het tevens te gebruiken is als een sluipschuttergeweer. Afgezien van het wapen, vergat de soldaat ook zes magazijnen met munitie (180 kogels) en een kevlar helm.
De Diemaco C7 is van Canadese makelij en wordt gebruikt door het Nederlandse leger. Het is een nieuwe, verkorte versie van de M16. Met de telescoop er op is het, volgens de website van het ministerie van Defensie, effectief tot op 550 meter. Het kan, op automatische stand, drie kogels afvuren. Op handmatige stand en met de extra telescoop wordt het wapen ook gebruikt als sluipschuttergeweer. In het magazijn zitten dertig kogels.
Nadat de Nederlandse soldaten de veiligheid van hun basis, genaamd Poentjak, bereikt hadden, kon een Nederlandse sluipschutter de plek zien waar het achtergelaten wapentuig lag. Later liep een Afghaans kind uit het dorp naar die plek. Vervolgens pakte het kind het wapen en de rest van de spullen op. Daarna liep hij terug naar het dorp, waarvandaan de Nederlanders eerder die dag waren beschoten.
Het incident werd in april niet bekend gemaakt door het Ministerie van Defensie. Defensie woordvoerder Robin Middel echter bevestigt het bericht. “Een wapen kwijt raken is natuurlijk altijd vervelend,” aldus Middel in een reactie op dinsdag. “Maar er was geen sprake van opzet en het gebeurde tijdens een zeer hectisch incident,” meent Middel. Volgens de woordvoerder is er daarna een nieuw wapen voor de ziekenverzorger besteld.
Zeker het feit dat de taliban nu beschikt over een uiterst modern wapen, lijkt een zorgelijk aspect. “De taliban zal er niet de oorlog mee gaan winnen,” meent een militair specialist, “Maar het is knap vervelend dat een taliban sluipschutter nu tussen de 100 en 200 keer kan schieten op Nederlandse of Amerikaanse soldaten.”
Monday, June 11, 2007
Ain't it a great caption for the first picture? But not true at all. Because the old woman walked straight to a nearby field to work on potatoes or whatever crop she is into. So the second picture is much closer to the truth than the first.
I made both pictures, and I just want to show how easy it is to manipulate stuff.
This too explains why there is such an enormous amount of crap being written about Fatah al Islam, the group that is currently surrounded by the Lebanese army inside the Nahr al Bared camp.
Bloggers from all around the world seem to have a true passion for either blaming Syria, or the Lebanese government (and US president Bush of course) for creating Fatah al Islam / Al Qaeda in Lebanon.
My point is this: We have no clue, no evidence for either of theories.
And if you don't live in Lebanon nor visit northern Lebanon or don't have a deep knowledge of radical Islam in the Levant - please don't bore the rest of the world with your second hand theories.
Because like it or not - If I would have published only the first picture, you would have believed that a poor old Muslim woman was escaping the fighting.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
"If you’re one of those lucky folks in the market for a premium full-size sedan like the 7-Series BMW, Mercedes S-Class or the big Lexus you might want to take a close look at the A8. It’s a class act."
I couldn't agree more! But a review like this puts the A8 (or S8 - even better, or RS8 - yummy) very much in the corporate scene. You know, these people who got another bonus this year and are now trying to fit 60 golf clubs in the trunk of their Audi. It probably would fit anyway, because this thing is just huge. But that is not the point.
The point is this: While driving, early morning Saturday, past the Nahr al Bared camp, with plumes of smoke on my left and, on the right, artillery shells literally flying over my head into the camp, I kind of had a very - and I mean a very - un-corporate feeling. It became clear to me that the A8 belongs much more on the battlefield than around some silly golf course. Let's not forget, this is a German car.
But anyway. I parked the Audi next to a house, 800 meters away from the camp which was being bombed to pieces by the Lebanese army. I shook hands with the people who live in the house and went - for the third time - to their strategically located balcony. From it you can see the whole camp. And that morning - smoke and fire too. The second offensive was under way to get rid of Al Qaeda lunatics who are hiding in the camp. And we had prime seats. By the way: the group is called: Fatah al Islam, which means Islamic Liberation.
There were six hours of maddness. So much shooting, so much shelling. We drank tea, while watching the fighting. We all went on our knees, behind a wall, if an Al Qaeda sniper would shoot at us - one man even showed us a bullet that he picked up from the balcony floor. At one point I could see how an Al Qaeda militant quickly fired with a machinegun from a window at the Lebanese army. Then I thanked the people in the house, and went back to the car. As ever - the A8 had not moved at all. It wasn't scared - like its owner. It wasn't exited - like its owner. And it didn't dive for safety - like its owner. It just stood there; just happy we were in a war, and not on a golf course.
As you can see on the pics I made on Saturday: Nr 1: The Audi A8 with plumes of smoke nearby. Nr 2: Looking at the battle from the balcony, Nr 3: A mortar hits a building.
Friday, June 08, 2007
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Heavy street fighting between Fatah al Islam guys and the Lebanese Army. Here an army captain looking through my binoculars (Since he had none, I borrowed it to him a little earlier). Next picture he opens fire on the islamists (who were hiding in a building). 45 minutes later, the captain, sadly, was shot in the head.
Member of a special police unit tries to spot Fatah al Islam sniper:
Terrified residents of Tripoli leave their houses after being stuck inside for hours due to fighting between Fatah al Islam militants and Lebanese security forces:
Lebanese soldiers try to reach an appartment where Fatah al Islam militants are firing from. One officer was killed trying to get to the first floor:
Soldiers are collecting RPG's to attack the Fatah al Islam hideout, the appartment in the back with the green/blue windows:
Copyright all pictures: Harald Doornbos
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
- Bought it with my own money (15.000 usd - which is like 300 Euro's these days - long live the strong Euro!).
- Not stolen in Europe, but original Audi, newly imported through the Audi dealer here in Beirut. When I bought it, it was seven years old.
- Not an S8 (unfortunately), but an A8. Here in Lebanon it is all about appearances. So the former owner, some kind of girl, put these little stickers on the back to make it look like an S8 from the outside. Pathetic of course and an insult to the makers of the movie Ronin. At the other hand - kind of funny ( Just like the little Holy Moli Maria picture next to the dashboard). So it is actually a Catholic Arab Audi A8 Pretending To Be A S8.
You've got to love it.
And by the way: Not driving a fast car in Lebanon can get you into serious trouble. I made this picture last year during the summer war, right after an Israeli air strike on a car carrying a Lebanese family, just south of the city of Tyre.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Monday, June 04, 2007
Nahr el Bared camp: Lebanese army offensive is over for now. Fatah al Islam islamists have been surrounded in a 800 by 800 meters era, the result of an offensive started by the Lebanese army on Friday and Saturday. 'Regular' shelling and sniping is continuing while Lebanese army prepares for a second big push, which might happen in a couple of days.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Situation on Sunday around 22.00 (Lebanese time), as follows:
* It is more or less quiet in and around the camp. Although the situation remains rather tensed, wouldn't describe it as "explosive".
* Lots of army (APC's, light tanks and checkpoints) in the direct vicinity of the refugee camp, which houses between 60.000 and 80.000 Palestinians. Saw around 6 APC's with fresh troops parked at a roundabout, couple of hundred meters from the northern entrance to Ain el Helweh. 10 kms before Saida, just off the main Beirut-Saida highway, the army has set up a checkpoint.
* Around 150 to 250 Palestinian civilians have gathered in the garden of the city hospital, in the center of Saida. Most of them families (lots of kids), who fled the fighting. Except for the confrontation between the islamists and the Lebanese Army (on the outskirts of the camp), there were clashes -inside - between the mainstream Fatah (PLO) and the islamists. Fatah seems to be - for now - more or less in control. Nevertheless, the Palestinian families told me they will spend the night in the garden of the hospital. The Lebanese authorities are thinking of housing them tonight or tomorrow in nearby schools. There might be more refugees (actually these Palestinians are already refugees, so this situation makes them double ones) in the city, but I only saw and spoke to the people in the garden of the hospital. Luckily it's pretty nice weather (around 22 degrees C), so no major drama there. Still, people told me they are very scared the situation here might deteriorate and turn into a second Nahr al Bared-crisis.
(Picture above: Lebanese woman with child passes hospital garden in Saida where around 200 Palestinian civilians took refuge after fighting erupted in the Ain el Helweh refugee camp - copyright picture: Harald Doornbos)Harald Doornbos
Just like the Fatah al Islam attacks in and around Tripoli / Nahr al Bared, the assault started on a Sunday and was unprovoked. Some islamists within the camps obviously want to create even more chaos in Lebanon. This is an extremely dangerous escalation that:
1. Put total strain on the Lebanese army
2. Will - for generations to come - destroy any trust between Lebanese and Palestinians
3. Make it almost impossible for Palestinians to keep on living in Lebanon
4. Create so much chaos in Lebanon, that the central authorities might just implode.
5. Shows what a mess you get if you allow islamofascism within your borders.
What a nightmare....
Just a couple of points:
- Last 24 hours: less heavy shelling and a more machine gun fire. It is obvious that the Lebanese army is getting more and more inside the camp, fighting house to house battles with Fatah al Islam militants.
- The camp is not entirely destroyed (yet), but there is massive damage to buildings.
- Latest death toll (according to my sources): Lebanese government side: 6 killed, 40 wounded. Fatah al Islam side: unknown. Civilians: unknown.
- Two reliable sources told me that parts of Fatah (PLO) inside the Nahr al Baret camp have joined ranks with Fatah al Islam. Percentage of the split is unclear. And beware: this is NOT an independently confirmed report. According to one source: between 1200 and 2000 fighters are now fighting the Lebanese army on a one square kilometer part of the camp (which is still a rather large area).
- Journalists are not allowed inside the camp, we are camping just outside the camp. (Luckily a little bakery is still open, so we at least wont die of hunger).
Friday, June 01, 2007
I'm going out now and will check out what actually happened.