Video: Exodus in Beirut

By Richard Engel Chief foreign correspondent
NBC News
updated 7/13/2006 2:00:38 PM ET 2006-07-13T18:00:38
REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK

JORDAN-SYRIA Border Crossing Driving with an NBC News crew across Jordan and Syria, en route to Beirut on Thursday we noticed a wave of border confusion as people in this region were trying to figure out where they should go.

There have been conflicting reports that the Lebanese borders have been closed and reports that they are open.

Lebanon’s airport was bombed by Israel this morning and sea ports have been closed. We are also hearing reports that several Arab nations have heightened their state of military alert.

Standing at the border between Jordan and Syria, there are many cars trying to cross the border into Syria, as we are, and many other cars trying to leave.

We are hearing that there are thousands of people gathered on the Lebanon-Syria border, which is our ultimate destination.

So, we’ve had quite an amazing journey. Since flying into Amman, we’ve driven across Jordan, now we’re trying to cross the border into Syria so we can drive to Lebanon, cross the border there, and drive into Beirut —- all in time for Nightly News tonight.

So, it’s a long trip and the prospects of us making it to Beirut by 6 p.m. ET are not looking good.

Stakes are high
We are going through all of this in order to reach Lebanon and find out what’s going on there. Everyone in the region has its credibility staked on the outcome of this swiftly moving crisis.

Hezbollah has drawn a line in the sand. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, effectively told Israel on Wednesday, “I dare you” to enter Lebanon and said that since the Israeli withdrawal that Hezbollah has been arming itself and preparing for military operations along the southern border.

Israel has staked its credibility, saying it will no longer tolerate this kind of militant activity from Hamas or from Hezbollah and is fighting an aggressive war on two fronts.

And the whole region is on alert as this brinkmanship plays itself out.

Lebanon – a nation divided
Now the question is what exactly happens in Lebanon itself.

Lebanon is a tremendously divided society. There are basically two camps in Lebanon – one that is pro-Hezbollah, pro-Syria; and one that effectively emerged after the assassination of Raffik Hariri that is anti-Hezbollah, anti-Syria, and anti-Iran.

These two camps are once again coming to a clash.

There are accusations in Lebanon that Hezbollah is trying to drag the region and Lebanon into a war. Hezbollah denies that and says that it is doing this to defend Lebanese prisoners and defend Lebanese honor.

But, there are many in Lebanon who do not support Hezbollah’s actions and there are deep divisions.

Now, we are on our way there to figure out what’s going on.

Richard Engel is NBC News Middle East Bureau Chief. On Thursday, he was driving across Jordan and Syria, en route to Beirut. He called in this report from the road.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments