Lebanon News

Shiyah residents try to make sense of attacks

Two wounded men are treated by their friends after two rockets hit their houses in Beirut May 26, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Azakir)

BEIRUT: Despite the twin rocket attacks on Shiyah Sunday morning, life went on as usual in the Beirut southern suburb, with people leaving their homes and going about their usual errands.

Just a few kilometers away from the scene of the rocket attacks that struck Shiyah at around 7 a.m., people were busy trading and buying goods at the open market in the Ghobeiry Bazaar.

One of the rockets hit a car dealership located near Mar Mikhael Church while the other struck a residential balcony in the Maroun Misk neighborhood.

“We heard the explosions in the morning but we can’t afford to close our shops,” said Ahmad Yaghi, a merchant working at the Sunday market.

When asked who might be behind the attacks, Yaghi said: “All possibilities are likely. ... It could be the Nusra Front or those who call themselves the Free Syrian Army. Did you not hear Sayyed’s speech yesterday?” He was referring to Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s address made just 12 hours before the rocket attacks.

In a speech to mark Liberation Day Saturday, Nasrallah confirmed Hezbollah’s large-scale involvement in President Bashar Assad’s battle with Syrian rebels. The speech was televised to a rally in Mashgara in the Bekaa Valley

Last week, Syrian troops backed by Hezbollah fighters launched a massive offensive against the rebel-held town of Qusair just 10 kilometers away from the border with Lebanon.

In his speech Hezbollah’s secretary-general also said the recent fighting represented a “new phase” in the party’s involvement, one that aimed to fortify the resistance and protect its “backbone,” or the Syrian regime, from the takfiri groups that, Nasrallah said, comprised the majority of the Syrian rebels.

Acknowledging the repercussions that might result from the party’s stance, Nasrallah said: “We will assume this responsibility and endure all the sacrifices and consequences that come with taking such a stance.”

People gathered on a bridge overlooking the Mar Mikhael Church, where one of the rockets hit a car dealership nearby, to observe the area now cordoned off by the Army and exchange thoughts about what had happened.

“One of the rockets fell on the balcony of an apartment on Maroun Misk Street. Luckily no one got hurt,” said Abu Ali, as he pointed to the site of the second explosion and lamented that the four wounded from the attacks were Syrians.

“They are just workers who sleep there, they do not need more misery.”

Some of the residents were shocked that the attacks managed to “take them by surprise” and were “unexpected,” in an area that had been subjected to unprecedented bombing during the 2006 July War with Israel.

“I am still shocked, to be honest, I did not see this coming. ... It took us by surprise because we were not expecting incidents of the sort,” a man who works at a car dealership near the site of the explosion said.

“Some of the cars belonging to our neighbor were damaged,” said Ali Remeh, who works at the Tarraf dealership located close to the Mar Mikhael Church.

“What a shame, they are trying to terrorize us because of the sayyed’s [Nasrallah’s] speech,” he said. “During the July War, we were never scared. We will not be now, that is for sure.”

The perpetrators of the attack have not yet been identified, and the Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Meqdad denied any involvement when contacted by The Daily Star. Shiyah residents initially suspected the FSA of being responsible for the attacks.

The launch sites of the 107-mm rockets used in the attacks were located by a Lebanese Army base in the woods of Aitat, in Mount Lebanon.

Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, who arrived at the scene an hour after the attacks, said the incident was an “act of sabotage” and was meant to raise already festering tensions in the country.

Raja Ibrahim, who works for a valet parking service company in the Beirut neighborhood of Gemmayzeh, said he was coming back home early Sunday morning after having breakfast with friends when he saw that people had gathered around the areas targeted by the rockets.

“Some of them were trying to make sure no one got hurt and others were afraid that more rockets would strike,” Ibrahim said. “It would be OK if Israel was behind the attacks, but if the perpetrators are locals, this would be very bad. ... We cannot point fingers yet, let us wait.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 27, 2013, on page 3.




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