Friday, May 9, 2008

The eye or the end of the storm?

We woke up to a quiet Beirut. At times, we could hear sporadic gunshots, but other than that, no more noises. The TV quickly showed us why: Hezbollah had gained a decisive victory in its battle against the pro-government militias and now dominated Hamra, Clemenceau and Qoreitem.

Still, the calm of the situation didn’t change our mind to go up to our mountain house in Qartaba and we started packing as soon as we could. By 11 we were on the road heading towards the port because that was the only road still open to go north.

Hezbollah and Amal militias were everywhere, walking around proudly on Bliss Street (our Bliss) and the Corniche. The army, true to style, had remained neutral and was calmly chatting with some of the fighters. Some civilians were back on the streets and even a few stores were open. The call for prayer sounded, but it’s doubtful many people attended the services

After going through the tunnel towards the port in front of the Phoenicia hotel, we hit another roadblock of burning tires. The strangest thing happened: the people standing next to the roadblock were giving instructions on how to bypass it. They were very polite, helpful and good humored. After following their directions, we were soon back on the sea road and before long we had left Beirut.

Later on we heard that soon after, they blocked the sea road altogether, so we were lucky to still have been able to get through. Dunno if this is true, but it made clear that roads were opened and closed at random: Hezbollah in the role of Israeli soldiers leaving us like Palestinians grateful for an open road.

The northern highway was not very busy; possibly due to the fact that the fighting yesterday and last night was limited to certain areas only. Friends of us who live in other parts of town hardly noticed anything.

The news from Beirut was mostly “good news”, in the sense that most of the fighting seemed to be over. Yet, we couldn’t help but wonder if we were witnessing the end of the storm, or only the eye of it. In the latter case, we’d better embrace ourselves for another round of fighting. It’s doubtful, however, which group would dare to take on the superior power of Hezbollah?