Middle East expert flees Beirut
(9 May 2008)
A Durham University expert on Middle East politics has told of how he escaped from Beirut just hours before civil war broke out.
Dr. Christopher Davidson, School of Government and International Affairs, who managed to escape on one of the last flights out of Beirut, said: “Having paid more than 500 US dollars in escape money, I cut my research trip short and secured a seat on the penultimate flight out of Beirut. “Just 2 hours before the airport was locked down my driver navigated his way past masked gunmen who were already massing on the airport highway at 3am on Wednesday, erecting tyre barriers that were later to be set alight.” He added: “A general strike called by Shia-opposition on Wednesday morning quickly turned bloody, with supporters loyal to the parliamentary majority holder, Hariri, exchanging fire with Hezbollah and Amal gunmen. Within hours the violence escalated, with entire sections of the city becoming battlegrounds and with government forces losing control of the principal highways linking Beirut to the airport and other key installations. “Crucially, the Lebanese Army, which is the only remaining national institution, has remained on the sidelines as the city plunges into sectarian warfare reminiscent of the 1970s and 1980s.”