“One week into the Invasion: Up the Coastal Road from Tel Aviv to Beirut”


June 14, 1982

SIDON, Israeli-occupied Lebanon (UPI) — It takes a passenger car less than four hours to ply Israel’s Western invasion route from Tel Aviv to within sight of Beirut — a trip of light years on a tank of gas.

The fighting may rage in Beirut, but further south the week of war is over and a new reality is settling in.

An Israeli military governor has set up headquarters at Tyre, the Palestinian stronghold captured a week ago. Outside, residents wait their turn to obtain Israeli permits.

“There is peace now,” said Jaffar Kashab, a bank employee awaiting Israeli permission to see his family in Sidon. “. . .But we want our own government to come here,” the Lebanese Moslem said.

Heading north over the Litani River not a house or structure seems to have escaped shelling. A beachfront villa has a hole the size of a basketball backboard punched through its facade.

Through it, a morning wash is hanging out to dry.

The white flag of surrender is everywhere.

Israeli road markers, newly painted and only in Hebrew, point the way from Tyre to Sidon, where the fiercest Israeli-Palestinian battles raged and house-to-house searches still go on.

At Sidon, the days of war echo loudest.

The main street is clear of rubble but the shops and stores are in ruins, outside the new military government headquarters an Israeli army truck dispenses water to local residents who collect it in plastic buckets and pots. It is the only source.

Armored personnel carriers and jeeps line the roads. Israeli soldiers, many of them Arabic-speaking, are everywhere.

Across the street is the Palestinian Red Crescent Hospital, which the military governor, Maj. Arnon Mozer, says he has slated for closure because of its antiquated facilities.

Three of its doctors have been arrested as suspected Palestinian guerrillas.

The stench of death wafts into the hallway from two cadavers not yet removed.

The staff complains of too few supplies for its 60 patients, several with festering wounds, now fly-infested.

A teen-aged boy, one leg and his other foot blown off, waves his hands in the air and says only, “The planes.”

A baby, her mouth a mass of burn scabs, rests her head on her mother’s shoulder. The military governor is upbeat on reconstruction of the devastated town.

He said 600 local laborers helped clean up the rubble with tractors and 200 more helped bury the dead.

The wounded are being moved to better medical facilities, he said.

Just past Sidon, where the Alawi River flows into the sea, the homeless have set up camp under transparent plastic sheets ordinarily used for growing vegetables. It is their only shelter.

Two women prepared flat Arab bread over an open fire. Children played near an inner tube in the afternoon heat.

Laundry dries on a dead bush. The flies are everywhere.

A Lebanese architectural engineer, his home destroyed by cannon, challenges the Israeli officer accompanying the visitors.

“Who will have the budget to rebuild Sidon?” he asks.

“Help will come,” the Israelis tell the Palestinian whose apartment was wrecked, “Food, water, what you need.”

“You will come to visit us and we will come to visit you.”

“When there is justice,” the Palestinian replied. “We are people too.”

Soldiers, exhausted and grimy, line the road to Damur, past which Beirut can be seen, a funnel of white smoke above the airport.

Further south a sign points to the “Lebanese Council for Development and Construction.” One wonders when and how.

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The Suffragents won the Gold Medal in US History in the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards and was a finalist for the 2018 Sally and Morris Lasky Prize, presented by the Center for Political History.  See Summer Camp Newsletters” and Facebook posts from book-related appearances. Reviews, notices, and articles about my books are under their titles here. My articles are here.

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