Thursday, August 10, 2006

Marion's latest report:

Friday 11 of August 2006:

A month has gone by in this messy war and still no ceasefire. The Lebanese were a little more optimistic after the foreign affairs ministers summit in Beirut recently. However with delaying the decision of the UN and the push of large Israeli forces to the borders of Lebanon, it now seems unlikely that Lebanon will get its share of calm in the near future.

So far citizens have managed to be strong even though they all had their share of losses in this war. Some lost their homes, others their beloved family members. And others lost their businesses. Yet everybody is still losing everyday as long as this war is still going on.

At the beginning of July we were all working energetically, but then came the 12th when the war started. After that date, we kept on going to work for half days but there was no work to do in our offices. It was extremely frustrating for everyone, nevertheless at the end of July we were paid our full salaries.

But with the beginning of August, some employees have been asked to take their annual leave. Others have been informed they will be paid half salaries from now on. And other companies have urged their staff to take unpaid leave until the situation calms down. That was the case for a friend of mine, who is worried she won’t be get paid unless this war ends, but was still relieved somehow that she was not fired. A few of big employers have just started laying off a large quantity of their staff.

As for myself, I was fully paid last month along with all my colleagues. This month, we are still going to work half days yet we are not sure whether we will be paid full or half salaries. Mobile phone companies have delayed the collection of the bills from their customers. Banks which have given loans have not claimed their monthly repayments so far. I have a friend who has rented out his home to a family who have now asked him if they could delay paying their rent due to the situation. My friend told me the he really needed the money yet he could not bring himself to refuse the family’s request.

Luckily, in the middle of this financial crisis, supermarkets are still open and selling food though there are some shortage of specific products. Bakeries are still delivering bread. But the shortage of electricity is obvious throughout the country. In Beirut and suburbs electricity is available for ten hours daily yet areas in the south, Dahiyeh and in the Bekaa are in full darkness. There are government announcements on TV urging all municipalities to turn off the electricity in the streets at night in order to save power. This clearly shows that the power stations have not received yet their fuel to produce electricity.

As for the petrol, well here lies the biggest problem. The scenes of long queues of cars in front of petrol stations that started last month has not changed. There was a little increase in the petrol price in Beirut and its suburbs. But in the south, Dahiyeh, the north and the Bekaa, prices have been set much higher due to the dangers of transportation along with the cutting of bridges and roads. My cousin yesterday waited for 3hours in the queue for petrol. When her turn arrived, she was informed that the station had run out.

In order to avoid black market petrol selling, the government has settled a fine of 1350$ if any station caught selling petrol in large amounts. And indeed police are seen standing in most stations inspecting the petrol selling process.

Moving to humanitarian issues, refugees are still in the welcoming schools and public gardens across the whole country. The government has started worrying about the school year that should start at the beginning of September. Where will those refugees be taken in order for students to start their new scholar year? I read in the newspapers a group of foreign missions have begun looking for wide areas to build prefabricated homes to the refugees. But when will this project begin? And how long will it take? Sadly it seems schools problem will be added to the others crises in the country lately.

Yesterday at work we heard two bombs explode. Thousands of flyers were thrown from Israeli planes. We rushed to catch the leaflets, worried they would be an instruction to flee the area. But the flyers were only warning people against Hizballah. The notes were written in Arabic. Here is the translation:

TO THE LEBANESE CITIZENS:

For what reason “Hassan” attacked Israel?

Is it to free the Lebanese prisoners from the Israeli prisons?

“Hassan” could have freed them long time ago through negotiations without having brought Lebanon destruction.

“Hassan” decided to get into a dangerous adventure.

“Hassan” is playing with fire and here is Lebanon on fire.

“Hassan” has bet on all your futures and here you are paying the price.

ISRAEL

On the news just now, a plane in Amman (Jordan) witnessed a terrorism kidnapping attempt. The Lebanese basket ball team who was on that plane just informed our local TV station LBCI after the terrorist was arrested. In a while, more information will be announced about this issue. Is it pure coincidence with the terrorism planes in the UK today? Not sure.

Also latest news, is today Israel is threatening via flyers the Burj Al Barajneh, Chiyah, and Hay El Sellom areas with future bombing. In an hour 1200 citizens were evacuated from those areas and the rest are still fleeing. It should be remembered that these areas until today have welcomed a large number of refugees from the south. Police are handling the transportation of the people from those newly threatened areas to the north of the country since Beirut suburbs have already been saturated with refugees.

In the coming days more areas will be threatened with bombing. And the citizens will continue fleeing to safer areas, though it seems at this point nowhere is really safe in Lebanon.

Reuters is citing Jordanian sources saying it was a fight, not a hijacking attempt, that was witnessed on the flight to Qatar that Marion mentions above.

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