Editor's note: CNN's Cal Perry filed this reporter's notebook from Beirut, Lebanon about what it was like being caught in the middle of a fire-fight. Here's the quick back-story:
Gun fire broke out in downtown Beirut last week after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said recent government actions amount to "a declaration of open war." The latest tensions between Lebanon's U.S.-backed government and Hezbollah were sparked when the government declared Hezbollah's communication system illegal.
The government threatened to dismantle a Hezbollah telecommunications network discovered at Beirut's international airport claming Hezbollah had installed cameras and other monitoring equipment at the airport. The government believes that Hezbollah was using the equipment to keep tabs on anti-Syrian government officials, possibly funneling the information to Syria. Syria has been accused of carrying out assassinations on anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians, a charge it vehemently denies.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/WORLD/meast/05/08/lebanon.hezbollah/art.tires.afp.gi.jpg caption="Government loyalists add tires to a burning barricade outside Beirut."]
Can’t stop thinking about what one of my former security advisors from Iraq said to me in a cafe here in Beirut just two days ago. “It’s quiet now Cal — but this is Beirut … at any moment, within 24 hours, the city and country could be thrust into complete chaos.”
Today, chaos is what happened.
The Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, gave a speech in the afternoon, reacting to what the government had said about Hezbollah’s telecommunication network (a private network used by Hezbollah for communication.) It was exactly as expected — a fiery speech in which he said the government’s actions were tantamount to a declaration of war against his group.
After the speech we headed out into the streets to tape a brief “piece to camera,” while it was still light outside. Within minutes, deafening gunfire broke out all around us. A group of Lebanese Army soldiers starting yelling at us to come towards them and take cover behind a large building. The rounds were snapping close to us as we ran behind the building.
Cameraman Christian Streib, who has lived in Beirut for a decade, snapped into action — immediately filming. We tried to do a “piece to camera” but with all the gunfire, I could hardly hear my own voice. I found myself screaming at times, and gave up pretty quickly.
The firefight was raging when Christian spotted gunmen on a nearby rooftop. He remarked that he got it on film — something I still cannot believe. I kept telling him he was making me nervous as he filmed about, but the truth is he’s a seasoned as they get, and it was the simple gunfire, now coupled with large explosions from rocket-propelled grenades that was really making me nervous.
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