In Lebanon, Israeli warplanes terrify a traumatised inhabitants | Battle Information
Beirut, Lebanon – Last month, Israeli jets carried out some of their largest ever air strikes in Syria, appearing to hit Iranian targets. However, it could have been the Lebanese next door who were trembling with greater fear. Some took cover under a table or sink, while others hid in their cars.
The roar of low-flying jets flying in from the Mediterranean Sea over Beirut particularly torments those who witnessed the August 4th port explosion that killed nearly 200 people, injured thousands and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
Rana al-Dirani’s 10-year-old son shudders every time he hears an Israeli plane and puts his arms around her.
“He asks me, ‘What’s going on mom – another explosion or is Israel bombing us?’ He’s scared and so am I, but I have to be strong in front of him, “said Rana.” I mean, what do the Israelis want from us? Are we not suffering enough? “
Rana’s life has escaped none of her country’s many crises.
She is co-owner of an Arabic language school that was no longer financially viable when the economy collapsed last year and the local currency was devalued by more than 80 percent.
Then came the explosion. Her school was barely 200 meters from the port and was fatally damaged in the explosion. Now she and her children are infected with the coronavirus. In addition, Israel’s planes bring back memories of the explosion and terrify their children.
Israeli jets could also be heard in Beirut days before the explosion, which led many to initially suspect that the country, which is technically still at war with Lebanon and has a mortal enemy in Hezbollah, was behind the explosion.
“I was so sure the explosion noises outside the port were jets. If I hear that sound now, I justify that this time it really is jets,” said Niamh, who runs Aaliyah’s books, a café in Gemmeyzye , which is among the other worst-hit neighborhoods in the explosion.
“When I’m alone, especially when the sound is particularly loud, I’ll take the side of security and hide under a sink or table, feeling irrational – but also calmer.”
An Israeli F-15 fighter aircraft takes off during an exercise in southern Israel [File: Amir Cohen/Reuters]
“State of panic”
Rudeynah Baalbaky celebrated on Christmas Eve with her friends in Dahiye, a suburb in southern Beirut and the stronghold of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed political party and militia in Lebanon.
When she heard the jets fly through the skies to bomb Masyaf, a city in northwest Syria that houses a military academy and a scientific research center, she thought the bombs were destined for Hezbollah.
“I felt the attack [on Lebanon] was very imminent, very close. At that moment, I was hiding in the car, ”said Rudeynah. “I have been panicking for the past few days and have been very concerned about getting medication for my mother and father.”
The planes reminded her of the harbor explosion, but they also brought her back to 2006 when she was a teenager. She lived with her family in the western Bekaa Valley in a village where Israel was badly bombed. She said her entire family has since struggled with severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I have no illusions about the sovereignty of Lebanon and I am not surprised by Israel’s crime and violation of international law,” added Rudeynah.
Israel has been invading Lebanese airspace for more than 10 years. When former US President Donald Trump lost the election in November and new President Joe Biden said he would rejoin the nuclear deal with Iran, Israel stepped up bombings in Syria to maximize alleged Iranian broadcasts designed to empower Hezbollah Cause harm.
Sami Nader, a Lebanese political analyst, said while Israel could bomb these alleged broadcasts through Syrian airspace, it was easier to get through Lebanon.
“Israel is not violating a bilateral agreement with a regional power when its planes enter Lebanese airspace, while in Syria it has an agreement with Russia and it is more complicated for them,” said Nader.
“On the one hand, Israel is violating Lebanese sovereignty,” he added. “On the other hand, Lebanon has also failed to comply with its international obligations because, according to UN resolutions, Hezbollah is said to be unarmed but has a lot of weapons.”
Scars can never heal
Not every Lebanese makes mistakes in Israel. Carmin, who spoke on condition of anonymity and feared her political views could get her into trouble, was at her home, also in Gemmeyzye, when 2,750 tons of unsecured ammonium nitrate exploded in the nearby port in August.
Her house broke all around her and shards of glass hit her on the head. She was soaked in blood the day Al Jazeera first met her.
Carmin is slowly renovating her apartment, but the scars the blast engraved on her psyche are deeper and may never heal if the Israelis keep their jets flying over their heads.
Yet it is more likely to accuse Hezbollah of dragging Lebanon onto a path of conflict than of peace with its neighbor.
“So many countries have normalized their relations,” she said of the treaties signed in recent months between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Sudan and Bahrain. “But this group will not let Lebanon sign the peace.”
Gemmeyzye is a Christian-dominated district with restaurants and bars. Most of the residents are Lebanese or expatriates with a western background. Neither group feels much support for Hezbollah, which describes itself as “resistance” against Israel. In fact, people here often speak of an approximation.
But a few miles away, in places like Dahiye, Israel is viewed as an enemy, and even speaking peace is treated as treason.
Trump’s exit from the White House has disrupted fears of an all-out war. He supported Israel more than any other American president before him and supported Israeli attacks against Iranian proxies with military and diplomatic powers of their own. However, Biden is expected to try to ease tensions, particularly by re-entering the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
But nobody in Lebanon can imagine that Israel will soon stop flying its planes across the sky.