Decades on, war-scarred Beirut buildings remain

Nearly 30 years after civil war guns fell silent, dozens of bullet-scarred, shell-pocked buildings are still standing. (AP)
Updated 12 April 2019
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Decades on, war-scarred Beirut buildings remain

  • Some are Beirut landmarks, like the iconic Holiday Inn, a hulking, bullet-riddled blue and white building that towers over the capital

BEIRUT: They are a common sight around Beirut, but their presence barely registers with Lebanese citizens anymore.

Nearly 30 years after civil war guns fell silent, dozens of bullet-scarred, shell-pocked buildings are still standing — testimony to a brutal conflict that raged for 15 years and took the lives of 150,000 people.

Some are Beirut landmarks, like the iconic Holiday Inn, a hulking, bullet-riddled blue and white building that towers over the capital.

The hotel, which opened for business just two years before the war broke out on April 13, 1975, was destroyed early on during battles between rival factions and used as a sniper’s nest. It has stood deserted and untouched since then, its shareholders locked in a dispute over its future.

There’s the modernist movie theater that never was, nicknamed locally “The Egg.” Its moldy skeleton stands as a ruin, its future unclear. Like the Holiday Inn, it is a curious attraction for visiting foreigners.

There are also a few remaining residential buildings located along the former Green Line, which separated the mainly Muslim part of West Beirut from the predominantly Christian part, their ravaged facades a testimony to the horrors witnessed many years ago. They still stand, either because their owners have no money to fix them, or because of disputes over ownership.

“Seeing these buildings is like being slapped in the face,” said Sahar Mandour, a Lebanese journalist and a writer. “You’re walking around going about your daily business when suddenly you come face to face with a scene that takes you back to the old days.”

Unlike others who dislike the sight of these buildings and think they should be demolished, Mandour, 42, says it’s important that they stay for the nation’s collective memory, to never forget a war that pitted Palestinians against Lebanese, Christians against Muslims, Christians against Christians and every other combination possible. Israel also stepped in, adding to the destruction.

“For a foreigner, it is a destroyed building. For us, it is a painful reminder of the bullets that pierced our bodies, streets and walls,” Mandour says. “I don’t want these buildings to disappear, their mission is not over yet.”

Not everyone feels the same. A woman who rents an apartment in a bullet-scarred building on the former Green Line between the mainly Muslim and Christian Ayn El-Rummaneh districts, said she worries about her two sons and society judging them for where they live.

She keeps plants on the veranda and on the stairs to compensate for the building’s grim facade.

“If I had somewhere else to go, I would,” she said, identifying herself by her nickname, Imm Lebnen, or mother of Lebanon.


Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

Updated 38 min 16 sec ago
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Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

  • Russian-backed regime forces try to retake villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters
  • The clashes also left 26 pro-regime forces dead in the north of Hama province

 

BEIRUT: At least 10 civilians and 35 combatants, mostly pro-regime forces, were killed on Saturday in clashes and airstrikes that erupted at dawn in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

The flare-up came as Russian-backed regime forces tried to retake two villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters earlier this month, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Since this morning, the Syrian regime and allied fighters have launched five failed attempts to regain control of Jibine and Tal Maleh in northwestern Hama province,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Syrian regime airstrikes killed nine opposition fighters, the war monitor said.

Ensuing clashes in the north of Hama province left 26 pro-regime forces dead, including eight who were killed in a mine explosion, the Observatory said.

In neighboring Idlib, regime airstrikes killed 10 civilians, including three children, the Observatory said.

The strikes hit the towns of Maaret Al-Numan and Al-Bara as well as the village of Al-Ftira, according to the war monitor.

The Idlib region of some 3 million people is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented, as opposition refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarized zone.

In January, the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian regime and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing nearly 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Turkey said on Friday that it did not accept Russia’s “excuse” that it had no ability to stop the Syrian regime’s continued bombardments in the last opposition bastion of Idlib.

“In Syria, who are the regime’s guarantors? Russia and Iran,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told state news agency Anadolu in a televised interview.

“Thus we do not accept the excuse that ‘We cannot make the regime listen to us’,” he said.

His comments came as Turkey disagreed with Russia earlier this week after Moscow claimed a new cease-fire had been secured in the province following weeks of regime bombardments — a claim that was denied by Ankara.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-regime protests.

Russia launched a military intervention in support of the regime in 2015, helping its forces reclaim large parts of the country from opposition fighters and militants.