By Mohamed Nazzal
On December 2, a car bomb, possibly detonated by a suicide bomber, exploded in Dahiyeh again. On al-Arid Street of Haret Hreik, scores were killed and injured. This was not an isolated incident, but part of the same “death chain” as Bir al-Abed, Roueiss, Tripoli, and Bir Hassan.
Officially, al-Arid Street is called Ahmad al-Qassir Street, after the resistance fighter who blew himself up at the Israeli occupation military headquarters in the South Lebanon city of Sour, 31 years ago. There is a small marble plaque that bears his name, with the title “the herald of the era of martyrs.”
In Thursday’s blast, the plaque was damaged, but it did not fall down. It remains legible, even though the car bomb exploded directly in front of it.
Terrorism struck at almost the exact same place that the Israeli air force targeted in the 2006 July War. The street is home to several buildings that were restored after the Israeli war, including the old Al-Manar TV building. The street was also home to Hamas’ offices for many years, and before the Sayyid al-Shuhadaa Complex was built in Roueiss, Hezbollah used to hold its main Ashura events right here. In short, it is one of the most famous streets in Dahiyeh.
But how can people not rush to the site, knowing that they might have friends or loved ones there? Still, there were many overly curious individuals who stuck around despite all warnings. Not even shots in the air could drive them away.
The bombing does not compare to the one in Roueiss, which was much more devastating and killed dozens of people. Thursday’s bomb was smaller by comparison, reportedly containing 20 kilograms of TNT.
Meanwhile, everyone was asking whether a suicide bomber was involved. There were human remains on the street, but no one knew whether these belonged to a suicide attacker or an innocent bystander who would have been very close to the vehicle. In the Roueiss bombing, people saw human remains that, in the beginning, were thought to belong to a suicide bomber before investigations revealed otherwise.
While people differed over most details, they seemed to all agree on the identity of the perpetrators: Salafi takfiris. Overheard often among the crowds was the name Bandar bin Sultan, the infamous Saudi intelligence chief. Some people were shouting “Death to the House of Saud,” as many people believe Prince Bandar is the preeminent sponsor of the extremist groups they accuse of carrying out the attack.
This street, which for decades has been adorned with banners calling for Death to Israel, now hosts residents who feel they have become targets for some Arabs. This is how, in their view, what they call the “Desert Arabs” and the House of Saud are showing their gratitude to the people of Dahiyeh, which defeated Israel and brought about the first indisputable Arab victory against the “nation’s enemy.”
But who is the nation’s enemy now? The people of Dahiyeh ask, “What have we done to deserve this? Where does all this hatred come from, and why?” Some in Beirut’s southern suburb are saying: Look for Saudi-Wahhabi fingers. Some of the angry bystanders who flocked to the bomb site were saying it loudly, calling on Hezbollah to do something about those “ghouls.”
Human remains were found in the car that exploded on Friday, reinforcing the hypothesis about a suicide bomber. The security authorities, however, have decided to wait for DNA tests before confirming this, especially since a man who works in the area is still missing, while his motorbike had been found close to the car that exploded. According to a Lebanese army statement, the car was a dark-green 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee, similar to a booby-trapped car seized in Mreijeh previously.
Lebanese Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil announced that four people died and 80 wounded, some in critical condition. But there were subsequent reports that the number of casualties had risen, while a final toll has yet to be announced. Some people were still looking for their relatives in hospitals late Thursday night.
The car is registered to a woman from the Othman family. She had sold it to a person named Mohammed Izz al-Din, who in turn sold it to Sami Houjeiri from the town of Ersal. On Friday, both men turned themselves over to the Lebanese army. At a later time, Al-Manar TV said a man called Abdul-Basset Ammoun bought the car, and then gave it to his relative Rakkan Ammoun, who “sold it four months ago to Syrians active in the opposition,” according to Lebanese security officials.
Back on Ahmad al-Qassir Street, hundreds of people, soldiers, and police officers, and dozens of ambulances and fire trucks, were still at the scene. Many Dahiyeh residents now understand that they are facing a “death chain,” a series of bombings that will continue to target them. This is perhaps why a young man was telling a companion in the crowd yesterday, “Nothing will stop this unless explosions echo in the palaces of the House of Saud.”
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.