It is raining for the fourth day in a row. And I’m not talking umbrella weather; within minutes, the steep stone steps leading up to my house are awash with rainwater, carrying everything down in its path. People stand by their windows watching the apocalyptic downpour usher in the season known to Lebanese as "winter".
I am hopeful that the rain will clean the toxins and residual hazards of war from the atmosphere. And if Michel Aoun can’t stage a rally in this weather, perhaps it will keep sectarian troublemakers off the streets.
Riding home in a servis, I pointed to the site of Sunday morning's attack in Riad el Solh square in Beirut Central District. "That's where it happened," I said, as my roommate Maya strained to see through the rain. At about 2.30 am, unknown perpetrators fired three rocket-propelled grenades, allegedly from the very overpass we were crossing, into the general vicinity across from the UN, right by the yuppy Buddhabar. The Prime Minister’s office is also only 100 meters away from the site, as are many of the major media outlets. If you watched CNN during the war, this was the backdrop to all the talking heads reporting from Beirut. CNN anchor Hala Gorani – the one with the monotonous drone of a sleeping pill addict— paid her token dues to the Lebanese experience from here.
Naharnet referred to the building, which sustained the damage from the rockets as "residential". But this is misleading and hardly signficant, given the commercial and administrative importance of this corner of polished Beirut (nobody really lives there.) Nor were the nearby UN and Prime Ministerial mansion apparently the prime target; the rockets were fired from a distance of only a few hundred meters away and could easily have hit the UN. Rather, this area is prime Solidere (=Hariri) real estate and the pride of Sunni Beirut. This act was a brazen provocation intended to fuel Sunni anger at the Shia (and Hezbollah). It could have been Al Qaeda for all we know, or anyone trying to create sectarian unrest.
The government predictably blamed "pro-Syrian" forces. Ahmed Fatfat, the acting interior minister, linked this to assassination threats against himself and the Prime Minister.
"Fatfat told Reuters in an interview on Saturday that he had recently received a message from someone 'close to the Syrians,' telling him and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to 'take care.'
The message had said the Syrians are 'more angry than they were before February 14, 2005,' the date of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination, Fatfat said."
Of all the carbombs, attacks and assassinations that have plagued Lebanon in the past two years, it is interesting to note that the perpetrator of only one attack is known.
In May 2006, a March 14th deputy from northern Lebanon, Misbah Al-Ahdab, ordered his bodyguard to fire at his home in Tripoli. Al-Ahdab and the government hastily blamed pro-Syrian forces for this act of intimidation. Until the bodyguard was arrested and revealed that Al-Ahdab had ordered him to fire at the house to cause a media stir. After revealing this embarassing fact, the bodyguard, Jihad `Abdul-Hamid Al-`Aklah, was found hung in his cell the next morning. Nobody knows how he managed to smuggle a thick coil of rope into his cell. His family’s accusations of foul play and calls for an investigation went largely unreported.
As we were pulling up to our house, Maya asked the taxi driver what he made of Sunday’s attack. “The Shia, of course, are to blame,” he said throwing his hands in the air. “We Sunnis are armed and ready to take on the Shia if they enter West Beirut,” he proclaimed. “After Ramadan, you will be steeped up to your knees in blood.”