- Posted October 20, 2012 by
Beirut Bombings: Fact vs. Fabrication
I live in Beirut, in the Hamra area near the American University here. When the bombings happened on October 19th, I was nowhere near them, but some of my best friends at work live in Ashrafieh about a five minute walk from the bomb site. They and the rest of our friends who live in the area created a telephone network to check on everyone's whereabouts. All were fine, and for that I was thankful.
What bothers me most about the incident is its reporting of it, and on CNN in particular. Ashrafieh was described as a "Christian area in East Beirut" and the opening articles on the bombing implied that sectarian strife was the likely cause of it, but anyone who lived in Beirut figured out quickly it was a political assassination. The basics facts pointed to it almost immediately.
Firstly, Ashrafieh, in particular the neighborhood around Sassine Square, is not a "Christian" area. People of all sects live there, and have been for years now -- CNN's information was outdated. My best friend who lives there is Sunni, her kids are half-Druze, and their friends are Shia. They also have Christian neighbors. It was unfair of CNN to imply sectarian strife so quickly, and with incorrect information. Targeting Sassine Square would not further any sectarian aims -- more than likely, it would anger ALL sects because Sassine is a popular shopping and recreational area. Some of the most desirable properties in Beirut can be found there.
Secondly, the bombings themselves suggested an assassination. My friend who was at home at the time called us and said she heard two explosions -- a smaller one, then the larger explosion that caused the damage. Two explosions means the first bomb was meant to blow open a car door, and the second would cause collateral damage and make sure any armored car's shell was blown straight through. We all realized quickly we were dealing with a political assassination because this is what happened when Rafiq Hariri was killed in 2005. When it was revealed that Wissam al-Hassan had died, none of us were surprised. al-Hassan, for the record, was Sunni. He was also a divisive figure in Lebanon because he once supported the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, but switched sides after 2005. He became the principal investigator in a number of high-profile espionage and assassination cases. He recently had arrested Michel Samaha, a pro-Syrian intelligence official, and this is likely the reason he was targeted. Most Lebanese I've talked think to Bashar al-Assad's regime is behind the killing.
Right now, all of Beirut is extremely quiet. al-Hassan's funeral happens in Martyrs' Square o Sunday, a downtown location. CNN has reported widespread protests, but on the ground that does not seem to be the case. The army is out in force and many of the roads are blocked. There are some tire burnings and demonstrations, but not on the scale that has been recorded by Western news outlets.