At least 46 confirmed deaths as families claim the bodies of their departed loved ones and nearly 250 wounded, many seriously, are being treated at the three Shia run hospitals, Al-Sahel, Bahman and Al-Rassoul Al-Aazam in this observer’s south Beirut neighborhood of Haret Hreik. This morning, Dr. Mahmoud Mansour, the chief of the emergency department at Bahman Hospital told this observer that his hospital recorded 20 deaths, and treated approximately 100 victims, approximately 20 percent of whom are in critical condition.
All are victims of the 6 p.m. rush hour terrorist bombings deep inside Hezbollah’s security zone on 11/12/2015 that targeted civilians who were shopping at street markets or gathering at the local Husseiniyeh (Mosque) for the fourth of the five daily prayers, Salat al-Magrib, held in the early evening just after sunset.
At dawns first light on 11/13/2015 this observer returned to Ain al-Sikkeh street near the Burj al Barajneh Palestinian camp and was briefed by Hezbollah security officials and eye-witnesses. There was reportedly 4 young men suicide bombers involved. Each wore a suicide vest packed with approximately 20 kilos of high explosives including ball bearings, nails, screws, and bolts to produce maximum deadly shrapnel. One security source claimed that the plastic explosive C-4 was used and the terrorist employed a battery as a detonator. If true, this would seem to indicate a well-planned operation with a major sponsor from the escalating proxy war next door in Syria, due to the army reported difficulty these days of coming up with C-4, even in Lebanon.
According to an eye witness, one of the suicide bombers was on a motorcycle when he detonated his explosive vest. Another reportedly got cold feet as happens in about 10% of these kinds of events according to a military source. The young man still died when his partner evidently sensed his failing courage and detonated his own explosive vest. He was killed by the blast but his own explosive vest did not detonate from the concussion and surely will be studied for forensic evidence. One of the 4 reportedly fled the scene, according to army guys at the camp checkpoint near Burj Barajneh Palestinian camp and one shouted “He fled back into burj.” (Burj al Barajneh camp). This has not been verified but a search has been beefed up this morning.
The bombings were the first in Hezbollah’s security zone for more than a year. Between July 2013 and February 2014, there have been18 terrorist operations in Lebanon, nine of the attacks were on Hezbollah bastions, most claimed by jihadist extremists, six of which were in this observer’s neighborhood. In every case the perpetrators claimed the attacks were in response for Hezbollah’s decision to send thousands of fighters into neighboring Syria to support forces fighting against the now Islamist-dominated uprising.
The extremist Islamic State (ISIS/Da’ish) group claimed yesterday’s attack issuing a statement within two hours of the bombings: “Soldiers of the Caliphate detonated explosives planted on a motorbike in an area frequented by Rafida (Shiites) after the apostates gathered in the area, one of the knights of martyrdom detonated his explosive belt in the midst of them.” IS subsequently issued another statement identifying three of the attackers as two Palestinians and a Syrian. More than 2000 Palestinians from Yarmouk camp and Syrian refugees from that country’s nearly five year war have moved in desperation into Burj al Barajneh camp.
One commander was quoted in Beirut’s Daily Star this morning as shouting to his men during the chaos: “I want men at every entrance of the camps” (Burj al Barajneh and Shatila). “You will stand in front of the entrance and fire in the air. I want them to be afraid,” he reportedly said, referring to the residents of the Palestinian refugee camp of Burj al-Barajneh. “The only way they could have done this is if they came from that camp,” one of the security gunmen told The Daily Star. “We will seal it. We are out for blood and we will get it.” He claimed that the suicide bombers had made their way from the Palestinian camp and headed on foot toward the husseiniyeh before detonating themselves at its doorstep. Two high-rankling officials from Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, currently in exile in Qatar, and Ismail Haniyeh based in Gaza, have reported that the Burj al-Barajneh bombers, were not from the refugee camp.
Several Sunni and Shia hotheads threaten this morning to inflame the current religious war (bellum sacrum) which continues to spread in this region. Some Shia young men were overheard arguing with their commander as he rejected their calls to attack the Palestinian camps of Burj al Barajneh and Shatila. Some Sunnis from Beirut are posting social media taunts some of which are appearing on Narhanet news outlet asking what took Da’ish (ISIS) so long to bring the fight to Hezbollah and saying it’s about time.
It appears clear that ISIS (Da’ish), has many mothers, and the cause of establishing a Caliphate is here to stay. Increasingly, global powers are coming to believe that air strikes and even troops on the ground will not defeat ISIS because it is an idea with spreading appeal among this regions massive youth population who had no stake or opportunity in the old order of the past half century. The war if Syria is now a proxy war of attrition and over the long haul, numbers historically have been determinative of who wins. ISIS and other terrorist groups continue to swell their number while their adversaries are facing severe troop depletion and dwindling resources.
Hezbollah is taking heavy casualties and their supporters in Lebanon are increasingly expressing their objections to losing their sons. Iran is facing the same problem but to a lesser yet still unacceptable degree. Iran cannot continue to pour money into this war of attrition and the US-led sanctions when they start being lifted will take at least two years to positively impact their Islamic Republic’s treasury. Longer to trickle down and benefit the average Iranian.
Russia is fast learning that they have miscalculated what they could achieve with their imprecise but intense bombing campaign in Syria. Blow-back from their adversaries has begun with the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268 in Egypt. The EU urgently needs an end to the immigrant tsunami and the GCC countries are beginning to face blow-back for their roles over the past several years. The American public is exhausted from more than a decade of misguided and criminal wars in their name that have ruined their country’s reputation and has led to ridicule of American claimed humanitarian values. These wars have cost the American people trillions of much needed dollars to rebuild their own country and face head-on serious and growing domestic problems. The Obama administration appears deeply fractured over what to do anymore in Syria and Iraq.
The Palestinians are frankly in one hell of a mess in Lebanon and Syria for all the old reasons and now more so after being caught up in the Sunni-Shia religious war that could last centuries.
Few, and certainly not this observer believe that this weekend’s international talks will agree on a plan to end Syria’s civil war, partly because the 17 countries and three international bodies, the Arab League, Britain, China, Egypt, the European Union, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UAE and the United Nations are deeply divided over the fate of President Bashar Assad. The stated aim of this latest confab is to agree on a structure for a political transition and to agree on which of the Syrian government, rebel and opposition factions, none of which will be at the talks — will take part. According to a leaked version of the latest draft Russian proposal, Moscow wants her ally President Assad to stay in office during an 18-month transitional period — a non-starter for Washington and 7 of its allies.
As John Kerr left for Vienna yesterday he commented: “The walls of mistrust within Syria, within the region, and within the international community, are thick and they are high.”
Meanwhile the much expected, and in some quarters awaited , arrival of Da’ish (ISIS) to Hezbollah’s security zone in south Beirut threatens to suck the current 270,000 Palestinians in Lebanon into the Syria maelstrom which since March of 2011 they have insisted on staying out of.