By Mike Brunker Projects Team editor
msnbc.com
updated 7/14/2006 9:41:31 PM ET 2006-07-15T01:41:31

As hostilities have escalated between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, an Internet site devoted to air travel has become an unlikely venue for cross-border dialogue and up-to-the-minute reports on attacks and troop deployments.

Flyertalk.com, which hosts a forum that usually is devoted to discussing how to get the most out of frequent-flier programs, charted a new course on Wednesday when “Dovster,” a regular contributor from the northern Israeli kibbutz of Yiron, posted that he had been awakened by “a rather loud exchange of artillery fire.”

In the hours that followed, Dovster pieced together what he saw and heard with local news reports to determine that the blasts were the sounds of Katuysha rockets being launched from southern Lebanon and landing not far from his home.

Others joined the thread and offered condolences and advised Dovster to “be safe,” but the conversation hit its stride when “BEYFlyer,” a regular forum contributor from Beirut, posted that the conflict was quickly spreading northward.

“Woke up this morning to the sounds of rockets exploding on the airport runway,” he wrote. “… Roads south of the airport are severely damaged and bridges linking Beirut to the South are out. Traffic is non-existent in the city and I think the electricity and water stations will be next.”

A riveting serial
Since then, the drama has unfolded as a riveting serial, with both Dovster and BEYFlyer describing events on each side of the border almost in real time.

“Israeli warships have just entered Lebanese waters to form a blockade from the sea,” the latter wrote early Thursday. “I guess any chances of this ending anytime soon are out of the question now.

While politics has at time crept into the discussion, the thread has remained remarkably focused on breaking news, speculation on the next target and advice on how to stay safe.

“BEYFlyer, please take this warning seriously,” Dovster wrote at one point after the Israeli Defense Forces warned Lebanese civilians to evacuate Beirut’s southern suburbs ahead of a planned airstrike. “Go into the center of Beirut and earn some points at the hotel of your choice.”

Later, when Israeli forces widened their attacks in and around Beirut, BEYFlyer posted an ominous three-word sentence: “It has begun.”

The most recent post from BeyFlyer — whose online signature concludes with this quotation from Mahatma Gandhi: “An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind” — on Friday morning was even more ominous: “Going off line... this is getting (to be) a bit too much.”

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