The war forced upon us
July 12th 2006, it all started as a normal day, waking up and heading down to basketball training and relaxing by the pool, not a worry in one’s mind, but what I did not know was that Hezbollah had other things in mind. In what was a continuous cycle on undermining the sovereignty of the Lebanese state, its institutions and holding hostage its people in the name of the “Palestinian Cause and fighting the enemy”, Hezbollah launched an unprovoked attack on Israeli position across the border, capturing soldiers and launching a war they could not stop nor deter. Nasrallah, Leader of Hezbollah, had over the course of the years claimed that the Balance of Terror would deter Israel’s willingness to launch a war against Lebanon and Hezbollah. Relying on his arsenal of rockets, mostly short based Katyocha rockets, and other medium-range missiles, Hezbollah’s leadership was all but certain it could stop Israel. Hezbollah, who had managed to “force” Israel out of South Lebanon in 2000, had been facing an unprecedented decline in popularity following the Cedar revolution a year earlier. Hezbollah witnessed the withdrawal of Syrian forces and intelligence in April of 2005 following the Assassination of Rafiq Hariri and waves of protests filled with Anti-Syrian sentiment, and demand for democracy and a strong state. Moreover, Hezbollah and allies were no longer in control of the parliament, which following the 2005 elections gave a majority to the 14th march alliance, a pro-western group with close ties with the U.S and the E.U.
Hezbollah’s Balance of Terror theory wouldn’t hold, following the Hezbollah attack on the Israeli Defense Forces, the might of the Israeli power came pounding on Lebanon and Hezbollah. Unsurprisingly, Israel’s airstrikes focused mostly against Lebanon’s infrastructure, destroying key bridges, bombing the Beirut International Airport runway, rendering it inaccessible and targeting the Southern Suburb of Beirut, Hezbollah’s stronghold. The manner, by which Israel retaliated, Hezbollah members would later confess, was unexpected. Hezbollah’s calculations were badly off, hundreds of thousands of Internally Displaced People, billions of dollars of destruction and most importantly the death of around 1,300 Lebanese civilians. Beirut had never felt emptier, streets and highways leading into the city were mostly free of traffic as many had escaped the city in fear of Israeli bombardment and taken refuge in the Mountains. Indeed it was widely understood and rumored that the Israeli had no intentions in targeting Christian Areas as The Israeli war was with Hezbollah and their supporter.
I still recall being told that the Metn region was the safest place to be during the war, although none, including myself, were worry free as we lived in proximity to Satellite and Radar Stations, in addition to the Jal el Dib power station. The mountains, nonetheless, became a place of refuge, with businesses and stores moving temporarily from the city into the mountains. The Lebanese joie-de-vivre would not be hindered, as the nightclubs and pubs moved from Beirut and opened up locations in the mountains. I still recall the transformation of my hometown of Broummana into a hub of life and refugees, but those were not your average refugees, but your middle to upper class population who’ve fled their houses and apartments in the city seeking a return of the normal life they knew prior to July 12, they hadn’t chosen to start this war and they sure as hell wouldn’t fight or participate in it, these were not fighters, they had seen what the civil war had done in Lebanon and never again wanted to live it again, Their only wish was to Live and Enjoy life, as many proclaimed during the Cedar Revolution a year ago, the vast majority, including myself, wanted peace and would forge forward with a peace treaty with Israel, after all, we had paid the price for the Palestinian cause more than anyone else (excluding the Palestinians). However, there was something disturbing about this war, the way the nation was divided and the way many had viewed and lived the war differently. Many comedians joked that the Lebanese dug tunnels to lead them to the Night-life of Monot or Gemayzeh; but they were not off from reality. I can still recall how normal life seemed in some areas of Beirut, I recall making my way with my mother to Ras Beirut on numerous occasions, I recall life in Ashrafieh to look normal, with people going to coffee shops and restaurants, dining and living; this wasn’t their war, but most importantly they were relatively safe, Israel wasn’t after them. From the hills of my hometown I recall the many nights I’ve spent with my friends playing cards; in the background was clearly visible the bombardment in the Southern Suburb of Beirut, as orange-like lights appeared behind the hills soon to be followed by a rumbling noise. In the sky above the ever presence of Israeli UAVs was initially impossible to ignore, an annoying sound of a small plane constantly circulating the sky above, and on many occasions visible to the naked eye soon became part of everyday life. Life appeared, and for all intent and purposes was, normal up in the mountains, I’d even say some areas benefited immensely due to the influx of people. Spending the days by the pool, roaming the woods and organizing sports tournament for the community, I filled my days with my closest friends and travelling to Beirut to see my Grandparents.
As the conflict entered its second and third week and with no sign of a cease-fire or end of conflict in sight, many fled the country; evacuated by foreign embassies and shipped off to Cyprus from there they flew to Europe and the U.S. I can still remember my biggest anger during the war was my inability to go to the South of France to see my family and cousins, be on a vacation as had been the norm for the past few years. Looking back at it now, I feel a sense of gratitude of the experience I’ve gone through in the 2006 war, it wasn’t the first nor the last time I would witness a conflict in this nation, but it was certainly the first that I vividly remember, a war which shaped me and led to my interest in International relations and diplomacy. I recall perfectly the many nights I’ve stayed up watching and following the news of a potential solution being brokered at the U.N. the many sleepless nights spent viewing CNN, BBC and other international networks to learn and see what the world was saying and how they were viewing the on-going war. As I watched the United Nations Security Council session on August 11th 2006 voting on the Resolution 1701, there was a sense that the war hadn’t ended, it was simply put on hold. Israeli official have, over the course of the past 6 years, warned that the next war would be different, that the Israeli Army and Air force would not hesitate in targeting areas that had been “preserved”. Hezbollah, bullish that the Israeli offensive hadn’t managed to get rid, or neutralize, the group, declared victory, a divine one that is.
The 2006 Summer War was all but divine, and it was all but a victory, the war highlighted the weaknesses of the Lebanese state, its institutions and the democratic principles by which this nation came to life in 1943. Overnight Hezbollah took Lebanon from a nation that throughout the ages, from the time of the Phoenicians to 2006, had never taken offensive action against any nation, and turned it into an aggressor, providing Legitimacy, if I dare say, to Israel’s response, although perhaps not to the disproportionality by which they have retaliated.
What Hassan Nasrallah called divine was taking a nation hostage, destroying its infrastructure, public image, killing its civilians, terrorizing it and forcing tens of thousands to flee the nation and emigrate, if those were glorious victories bestowed by God upon us I wonder what Satan would have had in mind. There was nothing divine about the intentions of Hezbollah either, nothing noble or to be respected or admired, the intentions were clear, restore Hezbollah’s grab on Lebanon, fulfilling a political agenda driven by a Tyrant in Iran and a Criminal in Syria.