Sunday, 27 March 2011

Syrian strife spills into Lebanon

Given the fairly firm grip Syria still holds over Lebanon, it was only a matter of time before the unrest there found its way across the border. Today a number of Syrians in Beirut took to the streets in support of Bashar Assad's regime; two protests organised somewhat provocatively in strong Sunni areas saw violence - one demonstrator was shot in the stomach in a drive by shooting, at a second protest demonstrators were set upon by onlookers. I caught up with a around 150 protestors who were yelling Assad's praises outside the Syrian embassy. After around an hour they then proceeded to march all the way back to Dora, where they'd come from this morning.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Lebanon's secular movement finds its stride

Exhaustive counting of the protestors who turned out today to mark their displeasure with Lebanon's sectarian malaise numbered roughly between 'rather a lot' and 'bloody loads'.  It's good to see this movement gaining momentum but sadly any viable alternative  to the confessional system of (mis)governance that has been slowly poisoning this country for far too many years seems far from clear.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Swapping shells in Ras Lanuf

On Wednesday the Rebels claimed victory after exchanging artillery fire with pro Gadhaffi forces just West of Ras Lanuf. The town had seen heavy aerial bombardment the day before so we tentatively took a four hour drive South to see how things would shape up.
 After hanging around the town for a bit, myself and videographer Sarah Lynch decided to head to the front a few kilometers down the road.  After half an hour or so of little going on,  an artillery barrage was launched by both sides lasting some 20 minutes. It was impossible to see who was achieving what in amongst it all but the day was concluded with an enormous explosion; a nearby oil refinery had gone up, sending flames some 500m high. In case you were wondering, the guy on the floor in the brown jacket got up and walked away after.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

From Salloum to Benghazi

Refugees crowd the Egyptian border
After an almost 20-hour drive - two busses, thee cars - from Cairo to get here I'm finally in Benghazi. There were hundreds of foreign workers stranded at the border with Egypt without the money or the papers to get home.
Today I saw where the rebels are 'training' their 'troops:'  young boys – one I spoke to was 15 and others looked younger – and old men, bellies and all. How effective they are is hard to fathom; reports from both sides are so wildly different it seems almost impossible to gauge what's actually happening. What is undeniable is that the generosity of many of the Libyans I have come across so far has been humbling. Yup, sounds massively cliche but none of this would be possible without them. It's dangerous here, a grenade was chucked at our hotel last night (only found out when we saw the glass being swept up this morning) but within hours volunteer security guards were all over the place. We're looked after, and it's a godsend. 

Libya's new immigration authority
Training (and below)