Israel Attacks Empty 2,000-Year-Old Lebanese City
Israel attacks 2,000-year-old Lebanese city - UNESCO World Heritage site
Monday, July 24, 2006
by Beatrice Khadige
Baalbek, Lebanon, July 24, 2006 (AFP) - The tourist fortunes of Baalbek, a historic city with Roman ruins dating back more than 2,000 years, had slowly been reviving. But now it is yet another casualty of Israel's offensive on Lebanon.
The eastern town, a UNESCO World Heritage protected site, has taken many direct hits in nearly two weeks of air strikes that have emptied its streets and put an end to summer festivities that were in full swing two weeks ago.
On Thursday those attacks reached a fierce level when Israeli jets lobbed 24 tonnes of bombs on the centre of the town, and on Friday Lebanon's culture minister called on UNESCO to protect the country's archaeological treasures.
"Already fragile ancient structures are being threatened by repeated explosions and they risk being hit directly. Your immediate intervention is necessary to prevent this situation from becoming catastrophic," Culture Minister Tareq Mitri appealed in a letter to UNESCO director general Koichiro Matsuura.
"Baalbek has never been targeted for so many raids at the same time -- around 20 in an hour," a Red Cross official, Assad Karra, told AFP.
So far, 35 people have been killed and 200 wounded in and around Baalbek. The attacks may have been aimed at Hezbollah and its Shiite sympathisers who dominate the area, but it is civilians who have borne the brunt of the onslaught.
One central neighbourhood in particular has been repeatedly hit. Several two- and three-storey buildings have been flattened into crumpled masonry.
A six-storey cooperative run by Hezbollah was also destroyed.