News and blog update

For those of you who don’t read dutch or are new to ‘In the Middle of the East’, here is a link to the audio recording of my interview with Robert Fisk, the first person I wanted and managed to hunt down in Beirut. It was broadcast on Antwerp’s Radio Centraal a few weeks ago.

Autumn is coming, and the weather here is utterly nice and agreeable now, a mere 26°C. We even had some rain in the evenings – very refreshing after a month between 30 and 40°C… Politically, the situation is less refreshing, with the usual suspects continuing their usual bickering and mudslinging over the conditions of the presidential elections, with no solution or compromise in sight. (Sounds like Belgium, come to think of it…) Plenty of French, Swiss and other assorted foreign diplomats are arriving in the country and announcing new initiatives to solve the standoff. The army keeps chasing escaped Fatah al-Islam fighters and there is talk of ‘hundreds of corpses of fighters’ being uncovered in the rubble that’s left of the homes, shops and markets of 30.000 people (a small city really). I have a sinking feeling that we will find out that many of these corpses are the remains of ‘civilians’ rather than ‘fighters’… At some point in August, I remember reading this headline in the Daily Star, which must be one of the most macabre ever. It went something like ‘Army’s advance in Nahr al-Bared is hindered by the stench of rotting corpses’… The army is still preventing all civilians, including journalists, from entering the camp and keeps blowing up buildings that somehow survived the artillery onslaught – in order to neutralise booby-traps and possible left-behind snipers. It also looks like Fatah al-Islam’s leader Shaker al-Abssi managed to escape alive – new DNA-tests on what was thought to be his corpse have turned out negative. So we have another Bin Laden/Scarlet Pimpernel on our hands (they seek him here, they seek him there, …)

Some of the pictures I took of the destruction in the camp (on the one-but-last day of the siege) can be found here, along with snapshots of other places and events in the country, including Hizbollah’s victory party and ditto exhibition and the Israeli-wrought destruction in Dahiyyeh. I have also recently uploaded some incredibly beautiful views of the Mount Lebanon area, including the sad remnants of Lebanon’s national symbol, the cedars who used to cover the entire Lebanon mountain range. I keep uploading more pictures as time goes on (there’s some Ain al-Hilweh sights I definitely want to put on there), but the internet in this country is so slow and unreliable that it takes a lot of time and determined effort to do so. Bear with me…

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