Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The sounds at night

Last night we didn’t have electricity. Sitting in the darkness, in safe West Beirut, this is what I heard:

First, there’s the new voices in the neighborhood, the refugees that were lucky enough to escape from Southern Lebanon and Beirut’s southern suburbs before Israeli started bombing.

Then, there’s the whine of the generators – Israel’s land and sea blockade of Lebanon means not enough fuel can get into the country, so the government is rationing hours of electricity across the country. Generators are surprisingly loud.

Then there’s the semi-constant drone of an Israeli F-16 overhead. With the Beirut airport bombed, if you can hear a plane, that means it’s Israeli and, thus, dangerous. Which means you have to wonder: scoping mission, on the way to an attack, or just back from one?

Then there are the booms themselves. In West Beirut, the loudest, the ones that shake your windows and make the CDs topple over, are those from Israeli gunboats, shooting their shells over your head into the port or the southern suburbs.

Less loud, but more frequent, are the bombs from the F-16s, which can happen at any time. Sometimes at 10.30am, when you’re finishing a late breakfast. Sometimes at 4 pm, when you’re driving back from visiting a friend, watching her try to help her parents, grandmother and sister leave a small village in Southern Lebanon. Often at night, waking you up at 1.30am, and then again at 2.10am, and then again at 2.20am, and so on. And then a final shot at dawn, in case you had actually managed to sleep.

And then, of course, there’s the crying. No constant, but devastating. Over 150 Lebanese civilians have been killed in the past 6 days, and thousands more are in immediate danger. Anywhere you go, so someone’s in tears.

Sonya Knox
West Beirut, Lebanon


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