A Lebanese firefighter douses cars at the site of an explosion in Beirut's Christian neighbourhood of Ashrafieh
A Lebanese firefighter douses cars at the site of an explosion in Beirut's Christian neighbourhood of Ashrafieh. The violence brought back dark memories of Lebanon's violent past and the civil war which tore the country apart. © Florian Choblet - AFP
A Lebanese firefighter douses cars at the site of an explosion in Beirut's Christian neighbourhood of Ashrafieh
<
>
Serene Assir, AFP
Last updated: October 20, 2012

Beirut blast brings back nightmare of civil war

A deadly car bomb blast which rocked a main square in Beirut on Friday brought back dark memories of Lebanon's violent past and the civil war which tore the country apart.

"We've seen this all before, we've grown up with it," said 34-year-old Bassam, who works in the Ashrafieh neighbourhood where the bomb struck.

The blast, which killed at least three people and wounded dozens of others, went off 200 metres (yards) from the headquarters of a Christian party, the Phalange, which opposes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"Whoever was behind the bombing was targeting politicians, but the ones who died are innocent civilians," Bassam told AFP. "The explosion was a real shock to us and proof that the lives of Lebanese are worthless."

Bassam grew up during Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.

The Ashrafieh blast also reminded local residents of a string of bomb attacks and shootings after the war, especially the February 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

The attacks killed several politicians and other leading figures, in a campaign which many blamed on neighbouring Syria -- the main powerbroker in Lebanon at the time -- despite its repeated denials.

"This is not the first explosion that I survive," said Emad, who was wounded in Friday's blast. "I was also there when (An-Nahar newspaper editor) Gebran Tueini was killed" in a car bomb blast in December 2005.

"Today I felt like I've seen this all before," said Emad, 50. "But for sure, today's explosion was much more powerful."

Windows of several buildings were blown off by the force of the explosion and the ground was sprinkled with shattered glass, as residents and medical volunteers evacuated the wounded.

Residential buildings and a small commercial bank were badly damaged, and houses on the ground floor of a sidestreet leading off Sassine Square were set ablaze, residents said.

"Had we not been out of the house buying medicines, we would have died," wept Nancy, a 45-year-old woman in a pink shirt. "Our house was burned. Thank God we're alive.

"This attack is a message to the Christians and to all Lebanese, to tell us nobody is safe in this country," said Nancy.

To Rahme, a 50-year-old nurse who works at the nearby Hotel Dieu hospital, the blast was a stark reminder of Lebanon's civil war.

"It's a good thing we are trained to work in such emergencies," Rahme told AFP. "Then, like now, innocent people were the victims, and attacks were always a surprise. It's so sad."

Visibly traumatised by the explosion, a young pregnant woman wept quietly as she sat outside the Hotel Dieu, with wounds to her shoulder and hand, circled by relatives.

In another throwback to the civil war years, the local hospital sent out a call for blood donations as it dealt with the injured, but now it was on Twitter rather than the radio.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Stay Connected
twitter icon Twitter 13,558 linkedin icon LinkedIn 463
facebook icon Facebook 87,173 google+ icon Google+ 272