Friday, June 29, 2007

Little video: How Journalists work

Me and a colleague prepared this little piece (around 4.20 min) for Dutch TV. It aired on VARA TV (a programme called 'Wat Heet') on Thursday, June 28th. It kind of shows a little bit how we work in and around the mini war close to the Nahr al Bared camp in the north of Lebanon. Me is the silly blond guy, my friend Hans Jaap Melissen the bold one. The veiled girl isn't me nor Hans Jaap, but our translator Jenan Moussa. The talking in this piece in is Dutch, the explosions in Esperanto.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

No 162 km/h but 150 km/h with Audi A8 in Beirut

Crap, am having difficulties to upload the video of me trying to drive 162 km/h in my Audi A8 in east-Beirut (see post below). Anway...it was pretty crowded, so only managed to do 150 km/h. Still, not bad for a busy afternoon in hot Beirut. Inshallah - this video will load today.

max 162 km/h....not here!

Poor Europeans. Soon the Need for Speed can only be played on computers, not in real life anymore. Because Holland (and Germany and others) are up in arms - European politicians want to limit the speed of cars to 162 km/h.....

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.

Harald Doornbos

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

OPEN LETTER

Dear naive people,

We all know that the prison at Guantanamo is a shame! Hundreds of innocent and poor victims of American ‘justice’ were randomly arrested by US forces in Afghanistan. Their only crime? Being on a holiday in 2001 in Afghanistan, a country of great natural beauty.

The Americans claim these guys all were terrorists. What a crap! In Bush’s fascist' empire even camping has become a crime. These tourists were the top of the bill in the world’s camping community. The Taliban regime never granted a visa to any foreigner, except to these super campers. They were rock-climbers, bird experts, cultural anthropologists.

It is with sadness though that we have to inform you that yesterday one of those poor and innocent tourists was massacred by Russian forces. Read this propaganda piece in the mainstream media:

Russia: ex-Guantanamo detainee killed

By JIM HEINTZ, Associated Press Writer

MOSCOW - A man formerly held in the U.S. facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was killed Wednesday in a shootout with security agents in a restive North Caucasus republic, Russia's top security agency said.

Ruslan Odizhev was killed amid gunfire that erupted when agents tried to arrest him and another man in Kabardino-Balkariya, a region near Chechnya that is plagued by violence linked both to crime and to religious tensions, the Federal Security Service said in a statement.
The service, known by its Russian acronym FSB, said Odizhev had been held at Guantanamo Bay and was believed to have been a supporter of the Taliban. Odizhev was one of seven Russians released from the detention facility in 2004; his whereabouts recently had been unknown.
The FSB did not specify why agents were trying to detain him, but said he was a suspect in the 1999 bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow and Volgodonsk and that he took part in a 2005 insurgent attack on police and government facilities in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkariya.
That attack left 139 people dead, including 94 militants. Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, who was killed in 2006, claimed credit for planning the attack.
The FSB said Odizhev was the "spiritual leader" of Yarmuk, an Islamic extremist organization connected to an array of violence in the region.

The ever reliable alternative media, spoke to his mother today. She said: “He was the sweetest man alive”. His sister claimed: “He would not even hurt a fly”. A neighbour said: “He was just such a passionate tourist. Tourism was his live.”

If the Americans or the Russians think that they can forcefully destroy the spirit of international tourism and camping, they are entirely wrong.

Tourism is alive!

Tourism is our way of life!

Tourism and camping or death!

Close Guantanamo, the world's largest concentration camp, NOW!
Worldwide free travel on local buses!

Yours Truly,

The International Committee for the Protection of International Tourism, Camping and Human Rights - General Command (ICPITCHR-GC)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My advice: Use CS gas to end Nahr al Bared mini-war

I am not a military specialist. But since day one I have been on and off in and around Tripoli / Nahr al Bared camp. So I kind of know a little bit of what is going on there.

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.

So here is what the Lebanese army should do: Wait until there is an absolute wind-free morning. A strong wind will blow the gas away or spread it, thus making it much less effective.

Then, fire canister after canister of CS gas into the camp. Better: Since most of the fighting is pretty much close combat, fire it directly into the buildings. There must be a total overkill of CS gas. No person can resist CS gas. It is just impossible (according to research, the only creatures that can ignore CS gas are most animals (because of their fur) and drunken people; rather small chance with these Fatah al Islam guys).


After the gas is being fired into buildings, there is an almost certain chance the Fatah al Islam militants will be paralyzed as combatants. They might even abandon their positions. Every human wants to escape the effects of tear gas – committed militant or not.


Then, the Lebanese army should immediately go on the offensive. CS gas works best right after it has been used. To wait a couple of hours would be stupid. Lebanese army units must be fully prepared for such an operation. Which means they need to be equipped with the latest model of gas masks and enough clean-air filters to be able to stay for a couple of hours in the middle of it. This will give the Lebanese army an overwhelming advantage in the area of operation.
Until now the main problems have been Fatah al Islam snipers, RPG’s and suicide operations. Honestly, pound a certain area with CS gas and no sniper will be able to hit any target, RPG’s will be fired in every direction (except for the right one) and suicide operations will be seriously disrupted.
The use of CS gas is not so much to save the lives of Fatah al Islam militants (CS gas is non-lethal). Because anyway, these guys want a one way ticket to paradise (which makes them such extremely dangerous and difficult opponents to fight). The use of CS gas will safe lives of Lebanese army personnel. 86 soldiers killed in a battle with a couple of hundred militants in a rather secluded area is just a tragedy for a small army like the Lebanese. And let’s not even mention the amount of wounded soldiers, which, according my own information, numbers now several hundreds.
Although the Lebanese army is making steady progress in the mini-war in Nahr al Bared, the toughest times are still ahead. The militants are now hiding in the civilian part of the camp.

Houses here are build so close to one another, that most windows only open inwards. This because you would hit your neighbours’ house in case it would open the normal way. This makes it perfect terrain for the militants. They can hide everywhere and – being prepared to die – will be able to take many more soldiers into the grave. Although Lebanese soldiers and officers are a bunch of brave warriors, the way the fight has been fought can not continue.

In 1993, US forces too massively used CS gas during the storming of the compound of the Branch Dravidian's, another sect, in Waco, Texas. After a 51 day long standoff, the sect was wiped out in a matter of hours. So CS gas works. But be ware: Make sure there is absolutely no wind and use the latest models gas masks. Otherwise everybody will be vomiting and crying.

Harald Doornbos

Monday, June 25, 2007

Video/audio of Tripoli shooting on Sunday morning

Ok, this is how the shooting sounded, on Sunday morning in Tripoli (click on the arrow in the frame below). It's only 30 seconds and the images are rather crappy and shaky. But hey, the sound is alright. And i really had something better to do than keeping my phone perfectly horizontal. Last 10 seconds I put my phone in my pants - had to carry something else...The fighting lasted for several hours. 10 people were killed (see also post below)



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).

Harald Doornbos

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Smoke, explosions and machinegunfire in Tripoli - again

Tripoli is a city of traditions. It is Sunday and - just like on Sunday May 20th - fighting erupts in the city.

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....
Latest news: 6 militants dead, one soldier, one policeman and two civilians. Several people wounded.
Made these three pictures this morning: The building during the fighting, Army seals of area, civilians leave nearby buildings.

Harald Doornbos

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Fighting over? - yeah right!

According to Lebanon's Minister of Defense, Elias Murr, the battle in the Naher al Bared refugee camp is over. The Lebanese army has won, the islamists from Fatah al Islam have finally lost.

Well...I literally just came back from the camp (having camped the whole afternoon 700 meters outside, sitting on a rooftop, overlooking the camp) and the fighting was very heavy. Constant machine gunfire. Lot's of shelling. Mortars were fired from a hill over our heads into the camp. Very loud explosions. Smoke everywhere. Close to the main road - the smell of rotting bodies. Not pleasant.
I understand that many Lebanese are kind of used to war. But to call the fighting in Naher al bared camp over? Just not true.
Nonetheless, it is very clear that Fatah al Islam is loosing. Compared to a week ago, the camp is much more destroyed. Large apartment blocks - pretty deep into the camp - have apparently been taken over by the Lebanese army because on some of these buildings I spotted the Lebanese flag. Also on the South-east side of the camp, the army has taken over an important Fatah al Islam bunker/building. From it, the islamists would regularly fire mortars or RPG's at nearby army positions. Here now as well a Lebanese flag on top of the bunker/building.
Since Fatah al Islam is fully encircled by the Lebanese army, it is only a matter of time before the islamists inside will be defeated. But believe me...the Lebanese Army victory did not occur today. Maybe tomorrow - who knows.
I made picture above today (late afternoon on Thursday) from nearby the Naher al Bared camp. You can see the smoke form very recent shelling and the Lebanese flags inside the camp. In the back; a war ship.

Harald Doornbos


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Arab Media (1)

This picture, left, shows members of the new Saudi Arabian government. Really? No, of course not. But does it really matter that something is actually true?

Some time ago I was in Syria. Beautiful country. Very friendly people. Great traffic (compared to Beirut at least) and damn nice and trendy restaurants. One thing though (well, there are more, but lets stick to one point): The media totally sucks! Read the Syria Times and every real journalist just wants to commit harakiri. Believe it or not, but the Syria Times sometimes quotes "www" as a source. No, www isn't some kind of reliable press agency, but the 'world wide web'. Basically, anything published on the Internet might end up as a fact in the Syria Times.

Every now and then, I'll publish here a link to articles, in English, published in the Arab media. These articles are EXTREMELY uninteresting, silly, ridiculous and most of all COMPLETELY badly and amateurishly written. Its an endless combination of opinion, half-facts, rumors, lies - all badly written texts. Why should you read this crap? Well, to get an idea how the mind goes in the Middle East. You want to understand how the Age of Ignorance is taking shape here? Just decide to waste five minutes of your time and read the following article: http://syriatimes.tishreen.info/_politic.asp?FileName=67859604420070612093027

Aaaaah....something more: Please read the Worst Interview Ever Conducted On This Planet (a so called: WIECOTP). British MP George Galloway being interviewed by the Syrian Times. Some details:

On press freedom in the UK:

Galloway: (...) Now, if they are going to apply this law they will persecuting me every day of the week. This is a major attack on freedom of speech.‏ ‏

Syria Times: That is injustice.

(Me: Please remember that this interview is being conducted in Syria‏! One of the world's most repressive regimes when it comes to free-speech or free media)

On president Bashir al Assad:

Syria Times: Was some point discussed that was distinguished during the meeting with the President?‏

Galloway: "We covered the whole world in 60 minutes. I was very impressed by his knowledge, by his sharpness, by his flexible mind. I was very very impressed. This is not the first time I met him briefly in London when he came to British parliament, but didn`t get the chance to talk with him in depth. Yesterday, we covered so many subjects. Syria is lucky to have Bashar al-Assad as her President. "

And the end of the interview is just pathetic:

Syria Times: "Thank you again and we like to remain friends as freedom fighters. Thank you Mr. Galloway.‏"

Galloway: "Thank you.‏ "‏

(Me: Let's all thank Mr. Galloway for his wise words. War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.)

The whole interview with Galloway (prepare for headache) at: http://syriatimes.tishreen.info/_default.asp?FileName=79783973120050807145803
‏‏
Harald Doornbos

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dutch soldier forgets gun, and ammo, in Afghanistan field - Taliban happy

This little exclusive story I wrote yesterday and was published, today, in the GPD newspapers. Since it is very much a "Dutch topic", there is no need to translate it into English. Bottomline: Dutch soldier in Afghanistan forgets his semi-automatic machinegun and six clips of ammo in a field in Afghanistan's province of Uruzgan. Happy taliban later retrieve the gun. Pretty clumsy.

SOLDAAT LAAT WAPEN LIGGEN IN URUZGAN, TALIBAN BLIJ

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.”

Harald Doornbos

Monday, June 11, 2007

Poor Muslim Woman

The tragic consequence of war. A poor Muslim woman escapes the fighting around the Nahr al Bared camp in northern Lebanon.

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.

Harald Doornbos

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Next War Adventure Of The Audi A8

The new offensive started indeed early Saturday morning. But let me start by saying this: The Auto channel reviewed the Audi A8, 4.2 liter, Quattro, as follows:

"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.

Harald Doornbos

Saturday will rock


Something tells me that Saturday morning will rock around the Nahr al Bared camp. And it's not Fatah al Islam doing a ZZ-Top imitation. At the other hand - you never know...
Harald Doornbos

Friday, June 08, 2007

Pictures of War (2)

An army goes to war.
Here some pictures I made during the offensive of the Lebanese Army against the Fatah al Islam terror network, in and around the Nahr al Bared camp. "We shoot at every beard we see," said one of the soldiers, a member of a sniper unit, while hiding behind a wall of sand on the southern front line. Rest of pics is the offensive on last Friday. Although the army still did not destroy all the Fatah al Islam hideouts inside the camp, the Lebanese army controls most of it now. Expect commando raids on Sunday.








Copyright: Harald Doornbos

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Pictures of War (1)

Here are some pictures I made on the first day (May 20th 2007) of Fatah al Islam's planned attack on Tripoli, north Lebanon. Tomorrow some more pictures of the trouble around the Nahr al Bared camp:

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

Not an S8, but A8

Couple of things on the Audi (see post below):

- 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.



Harald Doornbos

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

One for the War - The Audi A8


What car do you need in times of war?

There can only be one answer: The Audi A8, 4.2 litre, quattro!

I bought this car two and a half years ago here in Lebanon, and it got me smoothly from bombed out buildings to blown up politicians. During last year summer war between Hezbollah and Israel, it proved itself again. No problem manoeuvring around bomb craters and hitting holes in the road only led to 800 USD post war damage to the car. This Audi goes so fast, worried Israeli pilots looked in disbelief at this little dot on the ground speeding through a rather destroyed landscape.

During this new crisis the Audi - again - is such a pleasure to drive. From Beirut to the Nahr al Bared refugee camp in exactly 1 hour 10 mins. So it takes 70 minutes to get from home to a small war. Wow, this makes me the first war commuter.

Only one problem: the windows are made of double glass. Great of course on the highway, because it really gives you this smooth, almost serene feeling. But around Nahr al Barred you don't hear the bullets and the shells. These days, driving with the windows open in northern Lebanon is advised to all A8 owners.
Another minus: petrol usage is extreme. In the city: 20.2 liters to 100 kms. Aaaah! Almost did not dare to drive to the cinema to watch Al Gore's movie.... Still: On the highways it gets much better. I'm doing now 10.7 liters to 100 kms. Not bad for this fantastic machine!
Picture above shows the Audi A8 parked next to the road during last years summer war.
Harald Doornbos


One of the first pictures of Jund al-Sham militants

Here one of the first pictures (according to my knowledge) of members of the very shadowy Al Qaeda linked 'Jund al-Sham' group. I took these pictures on Monday during a visit to a very tense Ain el Helwe camp in Saida, south of Beirut. You can't get close to these guys, so I used my zoom-lens. Not the best quality, but hey, better than nothing. If you recognize one of these guys as your neighbour, you are in trouble. Saida, lock up your daughters!

Harald Doornbos

Monday, June 04, 2007

Just back from meeting with Al Qaeda guys...bloody scary

Ok, just short, because I have to write an article for my newspaper. I just came back from a meeting with Asbat al Ansar, an Al Qaeda cover organisation based in the Ain el Helweh Palestinian refugee camp in Saida, south Lebanon. It was a bloody scary experience. Me, my interpreter and a colleague are very happy not to be kidnapped by these guys in this maze of little streets and alleys. Situation in the camp very tense. Everywhere armed men, some wearing masks. Most civilians have left. Later more. And some pictures.

Harald Doornbos

2 dead in Saida

Ain el Helweh camp: At least two Lebanese soldiers were killed last night by islamists in Saida. Have no clue if it is quiet now in Saida, but will go there shortly and report later on the situation there.

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.

Harald Doornbos

Clashes resume

Great. This evening I drove to Saida to check out if the Lebanese Army and islamists were fighting around the Ain el Helwe refugee camp. I did not see, nor hear any clashes. Only spotted refugees in the garden of a hospital (see story below). But two hours later, fighting has started again, according to Libancall, a breaking news via SMS service in Lebanon. I'm in Beirut now. And need some sleep. Will check it out tomorrow. Doesn't sound too good though. And I was just getting so used to driving every day from Beirut to Tripoli (Nahr al Bared-camp) in the north....Seems like the story is going south.

Harald Doornbos

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Back from Ain el Helweh

Just came back from Ain el Helweh refugee camp in Saida, from where, earlier this evening, an islamist faction attacked a Lebanese army post.

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
Me off to Ain el Helweh now. will write little bit later tonight when back home in beirut.

URGENT: Islamists attack army checkpoint

Latest news: Islamists from within the Ain el Helweh refugeecamp in Saida, 35 kilometers south of Beirut, have attacked a post of the Lebanese army, just outside the camp.

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....


Harald Doornbos

Running around

As I am kind of constantly running around the Nahr al Baret camp, there is hardly a way to update this blog for now.

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).

Harald Doornbos

Friday, June 01, 2007

Gunfire in Hamra, Achrafieh

I just (00.10 Beirut time) heard gunfire coming from the Achrafieh area in east-Beirut. Lasted for around two minutes. At the same time, gunfire reported in Hamra, west-Beirut. This lasted for about ten minutes. Nobody knows what is going on. The UN has 24 hours ago decided to start the Hariri tribunal. So the gunmen might be happy or angry people. All we know for sure, at the moment, is that it were people.

I'm going out now and will check out what actually happened.

Harald Doornbos