In covering war, you run the risk of becoming closed off to the pain of those who suffer from the abuses you document, that you expose. You do that to protect yourself. Yesterday, I had an uncomfortably close reminder of what that pain tastes like.
Two suicide motorcycle and car bombings ripped through Jnah, South Beirut, Tuesday morning, in another reminder to residents in Lebanon that the war in Syria doesn’t respect borders.
I was at the scene of the twin explosions within an hour of the attack, something not uncommon for me after two years of covering the war in Syria for Human Rights Watch. I wasn’t there, though, for Human Rights Watch. I was there because the bombing just happened to occur in front of my relative’s home, in a neighborhood where most of my family lives. I was there, like other Lebanese, to pull my family out from the basement of their building, where they had sought cover. To help them carry a few essential belongings from their destroyed home. To take them somewhere safe.
The consecutive attacks occurring between 9:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. apparently targeted the Iranian embassy, but killed at least 23 people and injured 147 more. Shortly thereafter, Sheikh Sirajeddine Zuraiqat, the religious leader of the Al-Qaeda affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades in Lebanon, announced on his Twitter account that the group was behind the attack, citing Hezbollah’s troops in Syria fighting for the government and detention of Islamists in Lebanon as their justification. The attack follows car bombings this summer in the Beirut suburbs and Tripoli also related to the Syrian conflict.
The victims of this attack, like the victims of the other bombings in Lebanon this year, and those in Syria suffering from abuses by both government and opposition fighters, are bystanders paying the high price of this seemingly endless war, characterized by, if anything, total impunity and disregard for civilian suffering. Concerned governments have not done enough to stop supporting and start sanctioning war criminals on all sides of the conflict in Syria. One clear step they could take is to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court so at least there can be a promise of justice one day, and a deterrence for future abuses. Until they do more, senseless round after senseless round of violence will continue.