I haven’t blogged in a while, and for the past 12 days, my heart and days have been filled with only one word: Palestine.

Here is a talk I gave today at a local protest in North Carolina.

We shall teach them resistance. We shall teach hope, love, and resistance. 

You have all heard the story of the boys playing soccer on the beach – the Bakr cousins, Mohammed, 11, Ahed, 11, Zakaria, 10, and Ismail, 9. They were targeted by the Israeli military – targeted. One Israeli missile. The boys ran. Second Israeli missile. Four boys killed.

You have heard this story – because this crime occurred in front of international journalists. This crime got the international coverage.

Other crimes committed against Palestinians have not gotten the coverage.

  • Yesterday was a bloody Friday in Gaza. 61 Palestinians were killed.
  • In the morning, 5-month-old baby Faris Juma al-Mahmoum was killed and his mother and 18 others were injured by “heavy and indiscriminate” Israeli shelling in the border area east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
  • Salmiya Ghiyad, aged 70, and 22-year-old Amr al-Mahmoum were also killed in the indiscriminate shelling of the area.
  • Imad and Qassim Alwan, both children, were killed as a result of artillery shelling in eastern Gaza City
  • Rizk Ahmad al-Hayk, aged 2, was killed in air strikes in Shawwa Square in Gaza City, while Sarah Muhammad Bustan, 13, was killed in the al-Tuffah neighborhood in Gaza City,
  • In the afternoon, 3 siblings were killed. Their names: Ahmad Ismail Abu Musallam, aged 14, Walaa Ismail Abu Musallam, aged 13, and Muhammad Ismail Abu Musallam, aged 15. They were feeding pigeons on the roof.
  • In the evening, 8 members of the Abu Jrad family, including 4 children, were killed when a missile struck their home in Beit Hanoun. Their names: Haniyah Abd al-Rahman Abu Jrad, Samih Naim Abu Jrad, Ahlam Musa Abu Jrad, and Musa Abd al-Rahman Abu Jrad, – a 6 month-old.

And that was just one day.In that same day, Israeli terrorist forces continued their “relentless shelling” of the Al-Wafa Hospital. Hospital.

And the massive destruction continues: 1,780 housing units have been destroyed or severely damaged in Israeli bombing, according to OCHA. Stop and think about it. 1780 homes. Destroyed. A majority-refugee population forced out of their homes — again.
And still we are told that Israel needs to defend itself.
Those who claim outrage over Mohammad Abu Khdeir’s murder — a 16 year-old, kidnapped and burned to death, need to be outraged over the air strikes killing hundreds and injuring thousands in Gaza. They are both crimes. Committed by the same population. Supported and funded by the same government. Doctors without Borders has said that their job is like “patching up torture victims in an open-air prison.”

To understand the horrors imposed on Palestinians, we need to understand the siege. Earlier today, the Ministry of Health in Gaza wrote: “160 medicines/disposals are at zero stock in Gaza hospitals now, including some very basic and vital needs such as IV fluids!”

Even before this latest onslaught, UNRWA stated that 800,000 Palestinians are in need of food aid.

Now, UNICEF states that one million Palestinians are without a water supply.

This siege on Gaza is a genocide, just like the sanctions on Iraq were a genocide

Let us remember: The 1948 Genocide Convention clearly states that one instance of genocide is “the deliberate infliction of conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of a people in whole or in part.” The decline and disablement of Gaza’s economy and society have been deliberate, the result of state policy — consciously planned, implemented and enforced.

The siege has been imposed on Gaza since 2005, intensified in 2006. Why?

  • To create a maximum-security prison camp. concentration camp.
  • To kill Palestinians daily — a few at a time — rather than commit large-scale ethnic cleansing. Incremental genocide preferable.
  • To coral the Palestinians — 80% of them refugees — into an open-air prison.
  • Why? Because Palestinians are a ‘demographic threat.” 80% of the Palestinians in Gaza are refugees. Refugees. A demographic threat. Think about that. The racism inherent in such a statement.

And still the media – the US government – and others blame the victims for their own killing. Still they all speak of Israel’s right to defend itself.

The Israeli military crimes against Gaza are not new. Israel ferociously attacked Gaza in three horrific assaults: 2006, 2009 and 2012 and now again in 2014. An 8-yr in Gaza has experienced 4 wars!
And still the media speaks of Israel’s right to defend themselves. What about Palestinians? Are we only allowed to die, and to die quietly?
We are told that Israel has the right to defend itself, Israel has the right to live without fear Palestinians — the killed — are responsible for their own killing – according to the US media and the US government. If Obama is so concerned about civilians — why not build an Iron Dome over Gaza? Rather the US Senate approved giving Israel $621 million, on top of 3 billion it receives yearly in order to bomb more hospitals and kids playing on roofs and beaches.
What about Palestinians? Don’t Palestinians have the right to defend themselves? Don’t Palestinians have the right to live without fear? To live with dignity? To live with freedom and human rights?

An occupied population has the right to defend itself.

UN general assembly, Nov 29, 1974: 3. “Reaffirms the legitimacy of the peoples’ struggle for liberation from colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation by all available means, including armed struggle.”

I need to repeat this. Palestinians have been dehumanized so long by the press and the government, so they find it easy to blame the victim for his own death. Palestinians have the right to defend themselves. There is no parity, no equivalence between the occupier and the occupied.

Does Israel have the right to claim self-defense? No. An occupier – Israel – does not have the right to self defense. As Noura Erakat explains, “A state cannot simultaneously exercise control over territory it occupies and militarily attack that territory on the claim that it is “foreign” and poses an exogenous national security threat. In doing precisely that, Israel is asserting rights that may be consistent with colonial domination but simply do not exist under international law.” (http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/8799/no-israel-does-not-have-the-right-to-self- defense-)

I need to repeat this: The Palestinians have the right to defend themselves. Palestinians have the right to resist. Israel does not have the legal right to claim “self-defense” over occupied lands.

As Seamus Milne writes in The Guardian recently: “The Palestinians of Gaza are an occupied people, like those in the West Bank, who have the right to resist, by force if they choose But Israel does not have a right of self-defense over territories it illegally occupies – it has an obligation to withdraw. That occupation, underpinned by the US and its allies, is now entering its 48th year. Most of the 1.8 million Palestinians enduring continuous bombardment in Gaza are themselves refugees or their descendants, who were driven out or fled from cities such as Jaffa 66 years ago when Israel was established.”

Israel claims that it is responding to Hamas rockets. First, that is not true. Second, we need to recognize: the occupation is the Provocation. The Siege is the Provocation. The Denial of Human Rights is the Provocation.

As Osama Mohammad wrote, ”It is not the war on Gaza that is intolerable: Gaza confirms the intolerability of the present condition of the world” (@OsamaSh87) It is an ugly world… Yes. An ugly world in which the victim is the culprit, and the perpetrators are rewarded and supported. It is also a world — where hope lives and resists.

We need to remember three things.

  • Support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Organize locally and nationally. Pay attention to the stores that sell Israeli products — including Whole Foods, Trader Joe, and Harris Teeter. Organize.
  • Hold Israel accountable. Support Palestinian struggle for equity, freedom. End the occupation. Support the right of return. End apartheid.
  • And all the while remember. While we may feel broken, broken by the constant mourning over our dead — our killed children, women, and men — when we may feel overwhelmed by despair, we do not have the privilege to despair. We do not have the privilege to despair, to be pessimistic. So long as Palestinians are resisting, living, loving in Gaza, West Bank, Jerusalem, in Haifa, Jaffa, throughout Palestine; So long as Palestinians are resisting, living, loving throughout the refugee camps, — and living and loving IS resistance — So long as resistance lives – and it lives – we will continue the struggle for liberation, for freedom, for equity. We will be the Resistance.

They want to teach us hate. We shall teach them life. We shall teach them resistance. We shall teach hope, love, and resistance.

The Takaful 2014 – Fourth Annual Conference on Arab Philanthropy and Civic Engagement (June 4-6, 2014) is beginning tomorrow at AUB. It will be held in AUB for Wednesday and Thursday and then come north to Balamand on Friday.

Here is the agenda of the conference – English Agenda

Registration is still open locally, and fees waived for academics/students, and local NGOs, civil society organizations, and public sector. You can register at: http://conf.aucegypt.edu/Conferences/SigninUser.aspx?Conf=Tak14

Or at the conference registration tables in AUB or Balamand.

Posted by: r.m. | May 30, 2014

Lebanon’s polluted rivers

Two new studies by Beirut Arab University and Lebanese University researchers show high concentrations of heavy metals, residue from olive oil production, dangerous bacteria and other toxins – evidence of untreated waste and illegal dumping in the Hasbani River in South Lebanon and the Lower Litani River Basin.


Much of the pollution found in the Hasbani was the result of olive mill effluent, a byproduct of the manufacturing of olive oil in the region, making the river particularly toxic in November when the olives are harvested and processed. A significant amount of contamination was also caused by untreated sewage dumped in the waterway. The olive oil waste was likely responsible for the high acidity, which can poison marine plants and animals. High levels of phosphates and sulfates were also detected, a result of runoff from agriculture and raw sewage, which can promote the growth of algae that starves aquatic plants and animals of oxygen. All the water samples collected from the Hasbani were contaminated with E. coli and other microorganisms – proof that untreated sewage is disposed in the river.”

Another study of the lower Litani River Basin found ““remarkably high” concentrations of metals in the river sediments – substances that are toxic to marine life and humans using the Hasbani’s water. … [The] concentration of heavy metals, such as copper, iron, cadmium and lead in the sediment exceeded international guidelines at various times during the year. High levels of heavy metals can be toxic to aquatic life. Cadmium is particularly toxic to humans.”


Estimates are that there are “over 700 illegal dump sites throughout Lebanon, with solid waste and sewage contributing to the contamination and industrial plants in the Bekaa Valley polluting the Litani.”

As a reminder: Less than 50% of households in Lebanon are connected to a sewage network, and, of those connected, only 10% are connected to a wastewater treatment facility that does not release the waste directly into the sea.


Yes, more on this critical topic.


Last Sunday, a festival happened on the Dalieh, a festival to reclaim the space!


Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 12.43.29 PM

and the press covered the event:

* Al-Akhbar: Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 12.45.12 PM

* As-Safir:

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* Al-Binaa


Just as Habib Battah reminded us, the struggle is not just for our right to access the sea, our right to access the Raouche, our right to have a sea-view — our rights as citizens, and the struggle is not just for the livelihoods of the fishermen; the struggle is also to protect our marine life, to protect the sea, to protect the other animals.


Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 12.48.36 PM

Habib Battah wrote an excellent photographic piece entitled: the ‘Caves and Pools of Daleih: Endangered?” Check it out.


And the struggle continues.  Imagine with the government wants to do. See the picture below.



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Access to the Raouche would be blocked: even visual access would be blocked. Imagine going to Beirut and not being to see the Raouche!


So what to do? The mood among many is to give up. To accept a fatalistic approach.  To relinquish the fight from the start because we can’t win.  Well – just as architect and activist Abir Sarsouk exclaims below, “People say there is no hope. There is hope. The problem is people don’t demand their rights. When we demand our right to the city we can regain it.”  ( Check out this interview on New TV)

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Remember: The streets of the city are not for anyone, the streets of the city are for all the people.  The corniche is not for anyone, the corniche is for all the people. We are the people!


Posted by: r.m. | May 16, 2014

Protect through celebration!

One of the ways to reclaim the public spaces is … well.. to reclaim the public spaces directly!

So, come on out this Sunday at 3 pm to protect the Daliyeh by enjoying it!  (The issue was talked about previously here)



A press conference was held at the Daliyeh last week organized by the Public Campaign to Protect Dalieh  — and it  was covered in As-Safir

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 1.26.59 PM

(Do check out the As-Safir article: it is excellent in presenting the issues)

This Sunday, let’s maintain the effort by celebrating the space!

Put the pressure on the Lebanese government to abort this dam project which will destroy Nahr Ibrahim region, the historical valley of Adonis, the Biosphere of Jabal Moussa and probably the Jeita grotto! <– Click on that link

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 12.34.00 PM


An excellent article by Roland Riachi, who holds a doctorate in economics with a focus on developmental economics and water, in today English Al-Akhbar on the relationships between privatization, corruption, a deliberately-weakened state, dams, and water in Lebanon!  Roland deconstructs the false discourse around ‘Blue Gold’ and contextualizes this critical issue.

I include the article in its entirety below:

There is an astonishing slogan deeply ingrained within Lebanese common discourse: “Our country has abundant water but it all goes to the sea, we need dams to stop this waste.” This phrase reflects the universal water service shortage in the country and the solution to address it. However, this statement is based on a poor factual understanding of the nature of the water supply in Lebanon, and distracts from the real issues that have contributed to the severity of our current problem, which is chronic national mismanagement of the nation’s most valuable natural resource.

The origins of this slogan goes back to the French mandate. The “château d’eau du Levant”, or the Levant’s water tower, was judged too archaically managed by the locals and needed to be modernized by a good-willed colonizing power. Nowadays, the same dams-narrative has been adapted to contemporary challenges, and surface retentions have to respond to the circumstances of scarcity led by climate change and demographic growth. The 1999 ten-year plan of the Ministry of Energy and Water compiled all studies made about possible retention sites and brought back to life the same rhetoric. The plan was renewed in 2009 and adopted later by the National Water Sector Strategy in 2012.

In terms of rental profits, the constellation of dams is fruitful for all politicians elected by administrative cazas (districts). In spite of the gerrymandering in elections, cazas are typically water-shaped territories. Each and every single party in March 8 and March 14 has at least one or more dam on the agenda for their constituencies. However, there is a severe physical overestimation of the feasibility of dams in Lebanon. This fact is obstructed by an iron triangle formed by politicians, high-ranking bureaucrats and engineers, entailing a discourse uniquely from a supply perspective, applauded by donors and investors.

Part of this surface reservoirs constellation, the Chabrouh Dam, is actually leaking more than 200 litres per second because of the highly permeable karst (a type of calcareous rock formation) that characterizes the site, which is an extremely high rate of loss for its size. Studies showed that due to geological karstification, the expected Janna dam on Nahr Ibrahim will lead to high infiltration. The groundwater drainage will be reaching Jeita spring, situated at the bottom of the neighboring basin of Nahr al-Kalb. In addition, this will be disturbing the whole ecosystem of the natural reserve of the historical Adonis valley. Also fearing flow disruption of Nabh al-Chaghour, a residents’ campaign has recently stopped the construction of the Hammana Dam. This type of calcareous and porous rock characterizes two thirds of Lebanese geological formations, something not considered by the original studies done between 1930s and 1950s. At that time, hydrogeological science was still at its developing stage. Dams studies were never reviewed since then. In addition, no social or environmental impact assessments were ever made.

More recently, the same projects were dusted off and rejuvenated under the banner of the Blue Gold plan initiated by the Civic Influence Hub (CIH), where dams are their number one initiative. A large media campaign accompanied the launching of the project, and was endorsed by prominent politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists and businessmen crudely calling for water privatization to fund the same combination of large-scale water projects. The CIH proposes refinements on the national strategy of 2012. Whether technical or financial, the essence of both is the same. The slight source of mismatching between the two plans comes first from the personal contention between the resigning general director of hydraulic and electrical resources, acting with Blue Gold, and the former minister of energy and water.

One of Blue Gold’s dangerous assumptions; the public water bill has to be increased from the actual average of $150 per year to $500! With no understanding of the social impact this may cause, they simply took the calculation made by a household survey conducted by the Consultation and Research Institute for the World Bank in 2009. This study found that a dwelling in Lebanon pays an average of 700$ per year on water. This combines the public bill and the off-network average expenditure on water, including, wells pumping costs and cisterns, gallons and bottles. According to Blue Gold, the plan will “Decrease the average water bill per household from 700 USD currently to 380 USD per year for domestic consumption, and 500 USD per year adding water treatment fees.” (p. 84, Blue Gold 5-Year Plan, CIH, 2013). But residents are meant to receive potable water and have their wastewater treated with the $ 150! Aware of the vested interests promoting water privatization, a citizens’ counter campaign was recently launched to remind that water is not gold and has not to be sold.

Beyond the intentions for the privatization and commodification of water, hidden under the Public-Private Partnership paradigm, Lebanon has witnessed the driest winter on record. Cumulated rainfall by May 2014 barely reached 400 millimeters. Since rainfall was first recorded by the middle of the 19th century, this year accounted for less than half the precipitation of an average year. Under such geological features and climatic change conditions, with a cost ranging between 5 and 7.7 billion USD depending on plans, will dams be ever filled?”


There are ongoing battles between protecting what remains of public spaces and poor people’s livelihoods and the ever-increasing encroachment of  privatization for exclusive resorts and hotels.  One such battle is the Daliyeh.

Back in March, I had posted about it:

Al-Dalia Port, across from the famous pigeon rocks in Raouche, is not the same any more. Some of the fishermen’s kiosks that were built decades ago have been flattened after bulldozers went to work yesterday to remove the rest of their kiosks and houses. Yet most of al-Dalia’s fishermen preferred to remain silent. What Beirut’s notorious contractors failed to do in the courts and through threats and intimidation – that is remove the fishermen from the land which they inherited from their forefathers – money succeeded in doing.

The battle has continued since then

On May 7, Al Akhbar wrote:

Daliyeh, a small peninsula sprouting from the Raouche neighborhood close to Beirut’s renowned Pigeons’ Rock, is being sealed off from the public. Already, security guards are on site and steel poles – the first sign of a planned fence – have been struck into the ground. A luxurious hotel resort is expected to be built on the land, a resort likely accessible to only a small affluent section of Lebanese society. For everyone else, it is another marker that Beirut’s suffocation is accelerating as the struggle for inclusive spaces continues.

For decades, Daliyeh – amounting to 112,257 square meters of ground and rock – was used as a place of leisure for many sectors of Lebanese society. Its spacious land, with a beautiful view of the Pigeons’ Rock, was used for family picnics, lovers’ romantic hideouts, as a hub for swimmers and divers, a port for fishermen, and by hundreds of Lebanon’s Kurdish population who headed there to celebrate Nowruz at the dawn of spring.

It is one of the last places of leisure for many, particularly the poor who cannot afford the expensive entrance fees charged by beach and swimming pool resorts which have eclipsed virtually all of Beirut’s shoreline.

The struggle over Daliyeh escalated during the final months of 2013 after companies owned by the Hariri family scooped up most of the land from other prominent families and began to dig up the foundations for what is expected to be a fancy beach resort.

In October and November, the fishermen of Daliyeh launched variousforms of demonstrations to highlight the imminent eviction they faced. The protests were ultimately unsuccessful, and the development proceeded as planned.

But the story of Daliyeh is only one story in a series of tragedies besetting the design and control of Beirut’s public spaces.

[Read the story in full here]

And what of those declining public spaces?

The AUB Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs recently held a lecture entitled: The Making and Reclaiming of Communal Spaces in Beirut: The Story of the Dalieh by Abir Saksouk-Sasso.  Check out the youtube here.  The lecture is summarized here.

“Abir Saksouk-­‐Sasso started her presentation by giving an overview of the concept of public space in Beirut. The state, conceptually, is the provider of public spaces. However, according to Saksouk-­‐Sasso, a series of historical practices in Beirut have shown that the state “is either disinterested or openly at war with such spaces. The municipality of Beirut continuously leases out properties to private intuitions that would limit their uses; Zaitunay Bay being the prime example. Or, it completely bans access to public places such as the unwarranted closure of Horsh Beirut.


Saksouk-­‐Sasso argued that “in a coastal city like Beirut, the right to the city embraces the right to sea-­‐front lands.” Thus, it transcends the idea of an individual right to a natural resource to a collective right. Saksouk-­‐Sasso saw that users, state officials, professionals, academics, and activists shape our understanding of the public sphere thus influencing the policies that govern them. “Dalieh is where we could best imagine possibilities for claiming back our city by focusing on our right to this space as both a working slogan and a political ideal.”

As reported by Al-Akhbar, A great summary of the dire condition of public spaces came in the form of a 9-minute video released by the Lebanese Economic Association on February 2013:

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That video is available here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FEJ0E-eulT8 

So what can be done?

There is a campaign to protect this public space.

* A press conference is scheduled for this Sunday at 3 pm.  For more information, go to their Facebook page.

Screen Shot 2014-05-09 at 10.07.26 AM


في منطقة الروشة قبالة الصخرة تقع الدالیة، و ھي كنز جیولوجي و تاریخي و بیئي و ثقافي فرید ورثناه من الاجیال التي سبقتنا. و شكلت دالیة الروشة طوال العقود مرفقا عاما لروادھا من اھالي بیروت و محبیھا.

تتعرض الدالیة الیوم لمشروع عقاري یھدد معالمھا و یحد من وجھة استعمالھا، محولا ایاھا من مرفق عام لا بدیل لبیروت عنھ الى مكان خاص شبیھ بالكثیر من الفنادق و المنتجعات السیاحیة المتناثرة على طول الشاطئ اللبناني.

امام الخطر المحدق على ھذا المعلم العام، تدعوكم “اللجنة الاھلیة للدفاع عن دالیة الروشة” لتغطیة المؤتمر الصحفي الذي ستعقده یوم الاحد الواقع في 11 أیار 2014 في تمام الساعة الثالثة من بعد الظھر.


* For information on the public campaign itself, go to this Facebook page


Screen Shot 2014-05-09 at 10.08.32 AM


Let’s stand together.  It would be a violation of our rights to close of the sea and make it exclusive in a coastal city.  Public spaces are critical to the live of a city, to our lives, to our sense of community.

Posted by: r.m. | May 7, 2014

more on Baabda forest fire…

More on Monday’s forest fire, discussed here previously.

As published in An-Nahar

يقول رئيس الحركة البيئية اللبنانية بول أبي راشد لـ”النهار” أن التقديرات الأولية تشير الى احتراق ما بين 300 الى 500 ألف متر مربع من المساحات الخضراء في منطقة وادي شحرور حتى بطشاي الى محمية خندق الرهبان وصولاً الى بعبدا.

محمية خندق الرهبان والتي تقع في بعبدا لم تعد محمية، اذ احترق أكثر من 80 في المئة منها وهي تمتد على أكثر من 100 ألف متر مربع. ويشير أبي راشد الى أنه وخلال الكشف الذي أجري اليوم بعد أن تم اطفاء النيران التي اندلعت أمس، تبيّن ان الحرائق لم تطل الاخضر فحسب، بل رصدت سلاحف وأفاع وقنافذ وحيوانات أخرى متفحمة جراء الحريق الذي لم يترك شيئاً.
تضم المحمية أكثر من 30 نوع شجرة وشجيرة وأكثر من 300 نوع نبتة وأزهار برية متنوعة، ويلفت ابي راشد الى أن هذه المحمية غنية كثيراً بالأنواع الموجودة فيها، فهي تضم “نحو 40 نبتة في الهكتار الواحد.. في حين أن أكبر محمية في لبنان تضم 1.7 نبتة في الهكتار الواحد”، مؤكداً ان “الحريق قضى على 80 في المئة من غنى هذه المحمية”.
ويطالب أبي راشد بضرورة اجراء تحقيق لمعاقبة المسؤولين عن تمدد هذا الحريق والمسؤول عن عدم اطفائه بالسرعة المطلوبة، مشدداً على ضرورة حماية المساحات المحروقة لعدم استغلالها وبناء مشاريع سكنية أو طرق.
يزور المحمية سنوياً اكثر من 25 الف زائر يأتون لمراقبة الطبيعة اللبنانية المتنوعة والتي تجسد محمية “خندق الرهبان” عينة منها، فقد جذبت الخبراء الغربيين بتنوعها.
الخبير البيئي جورج طعمة أجرى منذ سنوات دراسة عن هذه المحمية “الفريدة”، بحسب تعبيره. وتتأتى الفرادة  من كونها المحمية الوحيدة القريبة من المدينة، فضلا عن تنوع الأشجار والنباتات والحيوانات وموائل (ecosystem) متعددة ومتنوعة تضمها. ويقول طعمة لـ”النهار” ان “الطبيعة الساحلية والجبلية تلتقيان في المحمية”.

 – First estimates are that between 300,000 to 500,000 square meters of green space [forests] have been burned.

- 80 percent of the protected area – an area of 100,000 square meters within the larger burned area, has been burned.

More on the fire’s impact here, from an interview on LBC

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It is that time again: forest fire season in Lebanon.  The season has dramatically expanded due to increased droughts and higher temperatures.

Yesterday, a fire began by 8 am in Baabda.  Below is a picture of the fire at that time.  An odd time for a fire? Yes, fires are much more prone to begin mid-day.


And the fire escalated due to the winds




and escalated


and escalated.

{Pictures from Paul Abi Rached}

Eighty percent of the rich, protected forest of Baabda has been burned.

As Paul Abi Rached, of Terre Liban, wrote on his Facebook page:

٨٠٪ من غابة خندق الرهبان إحترق اليوم
والسبب حريق انطلق في وادي شحرور السفلى
لن نسكت قبل معرفة من هو تاجر العقارات الذي سبب هذه الكارثة
نحن بحاجة الى متطوعين الليلة لإنقاذ ما تبقى
Translation: “80% of the forest (owned by the church) has burned, and the reason is a fire that began in the Shahrour Valley below. We will not rest until we know who the real estate merchant is behind this catastrophe. We need volunteers to save what remains.”

As the Daily Star reported: Residents said they first spotted the fire in the early morning between 6 and 8 a.m. and saw it spread quickly due to high levels of humidity and strong winds. Many claimed to have called various authorities including the local municipality and the Civil Defense office but that it took until around 10 a.m. for a response.

Why such a delay?

The forest laws in the country are such that a burned forest is not considered a forest, and thus removal of the trees becomes legal.  So, the possibilities for real estate moguls to make money increases, and the planned “Arab Highway” can move with greater ease.  Bassam Kuntar writes: “موت غابة بعبدا = ولادة الأوتوستراد العربي


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