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May 12th, 2008
10:18 AM ET

Reporters Notebook: caught in the middle of Beirut's chaos

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.
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[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."]


Cal Perry
International correspondent

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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Filed under: Cal Perry • Hezbollah
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    After reading this I'll never take for granted the video we get from war zones again. I would have been more than a little nervous if I had been there. Thanks for sharing your notes with us and stay safe – I'm looking forward to seeing your report.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 12, 2008 at 8:43 pm |
  2. linda., bella vista, ar

    What Peter said. We are getting reports that they have taken the 'fight to the hills'. Also, sketchy stuff about the GCC meeting to help mediate.

    Seems like there is just enough 'action' or movement to take the pressure off. Egypt shuts its borders-increased 'negative' activity in all directions. Egypt allows some relief to Gaza...? Just sayin' ...

    May 12, 2008 at 6:54 pm |
  3. Peter Trevino

    Great account of a conflict famous for its relentless brutality. I'm sure glad to hear this entry from Cal and Christian directly, which means they made it out alive! Stay safe guys.

    Peter Trevino
    New York

    May 12, 2008 at 5:48 pm |
  4. Carol B., Virginia

    There's always some new, usually preventable hell breaking out in the world. Hope none of you get caught in the gun 'n run.

    May 12, 2008 at 2:44 pm |
  5. Tina

    People say it is so bad b/c we shed attention on other nations while we cover up our own country to make it look perfect. I can see where that could happen. We all look and say the same thing. I couldn't even say I'd want attention from the U.S. if I was from some countries, b/c of the nature of Hollywood , New York, and Chicago. The big people. We put on airs, I don't but people do and it's nothing like that.

    But, we are getting better to show our faults, not vaults. lol I can make my own self laugh. I can't change America by myself. We all have to .

    May 12, 2008 at 1:36 pm |
  6. Franchise Whale

    Great stuff! Thanks for sharing, one fresh
    idea and you can change the world, keep
    up the great work.

    May 12, 2008 at 12:51 pm |
  7. Cindy

    Cal,
    Man...you all really get in the middle of these stories don't you? LOL I am glad that you all are OK. I honestly don't see how you do it. Thanks for telling us your story.

    May 12, 2008 at 10:29 am |