I was heartbroken to read the news of car bomb in Achrafieh this afternoon, killing eight and injuring far more. The site of the bombing, Sassine Square, was home to a memorial for former President Bachir Gemayel, assassinated at that spot in 1982. I cannot believe this community has yet another event to mourn. Some sources are reporting that the intended target for the attack may have been Wissam al-Hassan, head of the intelligence branch of the Internal Security Forces (ISF). Mr. Hassan, killed in the blast, had recently aided in the arrest of Michael, a pro-Syrian politician and former information minister, who had been planning a bomb plot. As of now, no party or organization has taken credit for the bombing today.
Achrafieh was our home in Beirut for my ten days there this summer, and the reverberations from the explosion in Sassine Square have rippled all the way to Blacksburg. My first day in Beirut, we attended the Live Achrafieh Festival right in Sassine Square. The mixture of Muslims and Christians, all enjoying a night of Lebanese music and culture, overjoyed me at the time. It is devastating to think that some of those very people might be dead or injured today.
To give you some idea of how close our hotel was to Sassine Square, here’s a map:
By even writing this entry, I’m sure many are going to respond by doing their “told ya so” dance and by reminding me why they think I shouldn’t have gone on my study visit in the first place. I still maintain that traveling to Lebanon was completely worth it. Beirut today is far different from the Beirut I visited in June and July, namely because of the escalation of events in Syria. Whatever the cause of today’s events, no one can argue that they are not tragic. Many of us have been worried about the violence in Syria spilling over into Lebanon, and I truly hope that this event is isolated and not indicative of incidents to come for historically war-torn Lebanon.