We heard a big boom yesterday coming from Ashrafieh, a neighborhood where most of us live. It took 5 minutes to figure out it had been in Sassine or close by and my editor had tears in her eyes. Her little girl was at daycare, very close to Sassine.
It took me a while to get used to the idea that it had been a bomb. As stupid as it sounds, I kept hoping it was just a gas leak. But when we reached Sassine, half an hour later, the smell of plastic was too strong for us to have any doubts – it was a terror attack. The place was already crowded with journalists and curious neighbors. When we reached the explosion site, I realized it was very close to the daycare where my co-worker’s daughter was. The children were fine, but had it been closer than that they wouldn’t have been so lucky.
For 3 hours after the explosion nobody knew what to make of it. The neighbors surrounding the place said there were no politicians who lived in the area. However, they all pointed to the Kataeb party headquarters down the street. The security forces on the scene appeared calm, as the Red Cross was carrying the wounded out. They had no idea who had died there. Until around 7pm, we all thought it was a terror attack against civilians, or a bomb that detonated too early. The whole incident did not make sense. Nobody bombs civilians in Beirut. There had to be purpose for it.
The reaction of all Lebanese was incredible. The solidarity with the people of Ashrafieh who had lost relatives or who had been wounded was incredible. As long as it was a random terror attack, I saw all Lebanese standing together against anybody who bombs Lebanon.
But at around 7pm we knew the car bomb had been placed and detonated there on purpose, so it would blow up right when ISF’s head of intelligence branch Wissam el Hassan passed by on his way to a secret meeting. It is, of course, not that difficult to figure out that Al Hassan’s assassination was either a copycat or perpetrated by the same people who killed Rafik Hariri in 2005. It was the same modus operandi. But when it all got political, the victims were forgotten in all the debates, as many other Lebanese who died and were wounded in other bombings in Beirut were forgotten before them.
Most Lebanese turned again into Sunnis, Christians, Shiites, Future Movement supporters, Free Patriotic Movement supporters, Kataeb Party supporters, Lebanese Forces supporters, March 14 supporters, March 8 supporters, pro-Syrian, anti-Syrian, SSNP supporters. March 14 blamed Syria, March8 blamed Israel. A new cedar revolution to overthrow the March8 government was being organized on social media. Roads were blocked with burning tires by angry Sunnis who protest the death of someone who perceived as yet another Sunni leader.
But the Lebanese are no longer standing together. Whoever killed the 8 Lebanese and wounded 118 yesterday in Sassine square managed to achieve two things at a time: get rid of an uncomfortable security chief and create chaos in Lebanon. How convenient.
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