Monday, July 31, 2006

From Beirut to Damascus and back to London (for the moment at least) to find a bombardment of a different kind -- a salvo of kicks from a little boy that feels like he wants to come into the world three months early.

Maybe he's trying to express his displeasure at not being the man of the house any more.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


"Tyre is a dreamy seaside town bursting with charm and history, including the largest Roman hippodrome in the world. the coastal road from Beirut to Tyre takes roughly two hours; evolving from an urban city setting into a lush, rich landscape filled with flowers and banana plantations." -- "The Guide" tourist brochure, July 2006.

"TYRE, Lebanon - At least 55 people, mostly civilians and including many children, remain buried under rubble in southern Lebanon after more than 10 days of intense Israeli bombardments, a rescue official told AFP. Lebanese Civil Defence rescue coordinator Salam Daher said the figure was likely to be much higher as Israeli attacks on roads in the region made access by teams risky or impossible." -- AFP report, July 26, 2006

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

For the past two days I've barely been able to get wires or access a single e-mail. It's all been massively frustrating. But now our IT guru has arrived to fix the network the creaking computers are starting to improve.

So at last I've been able to upload a Beirut podcast, answering some of the questions you've e-mailed.

Listen to the podcast here or subscribe to the feed here.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Someone's having a little fun at out expense.

This spoof is doing the rounds on the BBC e-mail:

More than a thousand British citizens have now been evacuated from Lebanon, fleeing the continuing bombardment by BBC news teams. More details from our correspondent in Beirut, Phil Warships:

For a second day they came in their droves -- friends, families, adults and children driven out of this battered city. Fearing for their sanity in a city overrun by camera crews and radio reporters. Their underground shelters were no protection against BBC personnel armed with the latest "bunkerbuster" minidisc recorders, so they sought refuge on the decks of HMS York and Gloucester. This woman ran the perilous gauntlet of the Beirut dockside. She thought she was safe at last on the destroyer. She was wrong:

WOMAN: News 24 declared a ceasefire at Beirut while we got out, so that was ok. But when we got to Limassol we were ambushed by Clive Myrie. It's a nightmare. There's no escape. Can't somebody do something to stop this?

The Lebanese government estimates that at least three hundred people have been interviewed and thousands more vox popped in a relentless BBC onslaught by air, ground and sea. Those who slipped through the net have been mopped up by the corporation's crack Newswire "clipper" units. In some cases, satellite technology has been used to target UK citizens, cruelly luring them into live interviews with Jane Hill. One report said a teenage girl was subject to ground assaults by Ben Brown, Jeremy Bowen and Jim Muir over a horrific five-minute period. She was then forced to recount her ordeal on the Victoria Derbyshire programme. The BBC director general, Mark Thompson, said the offensive was justified.

THOMPSON: What do you expect us to do when Hezbollah fires rockets into northern Israel? Just sit back and take it? No, we respond with every reporter we've got...unless I've sacked them.

The Lebanese prime minister has called on the international community to intervene. At the moment there seems little chance of that happening.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Do you ever watch television news and wonder whether the places the correspondents are reporting from are really that dangerous?

Well, a scene I witnessed on my way to the office this morning might provide you with a partial answer.

A reporter -- I don't which country or network she was from -- was preparing to go live from a satellite dish set up in the car park opposite the bureau.

As the satellite engineers scurried around like ants, firing up the dish, the reporter adjusted her flak jacket and teased her hair into shape.

There are many dangerous places in Lebanon at the moment -- Sidon, Tyre and the border with Israel for example.

A car park in Beirut next to the UN building isn't one of them.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Joy of joys.

The huge amount of military hardware in the area has been scrambling our comms all day, but the computers have recovered sufficiently for me to upload the MP3 of my "From Our Own Correspondent" and some new photos on the Flickr photo stream.

Friday, July 21, 2006

So much content I want to upload -- but the comms here in Beirut have been virtually non-existent for the past 24 hours.

We think the anti-missile systems on the warships down at the Port could be scrambling the microwave links we use to access the internet. As a result I haven't been able to open a single e-mail since yesterday.

Once the situation improves I'll upload some more photos and maybe even get the first podcast done.

As far as work's concerned, as my colleague Bridget Kendall explains every BBC correspondent loves writing for the "From Our Own Correspondent" programme -- or FOOC as it's known inside the corporation.

"You can say things you cannot say anywhere else. You are freer to be yourself," says Bridget.

She's right -- and on this Saturday's programme I'll be attempting to say things I can't say anywhere else. Here's what I'll be saying:

Just over a week ago I arrived at Beirut International Airport in the early hours of the morning – and went straight to bed.

By the time I awoke, the runway I had touched down on just a few hours earlier had been reduced to rubble. Within days, large parts of Lebanon went the same way, within weeks the political and geographical landscapes seemed to have shifted indelibly.

Jim Muir reported from Lebanon throughout the country’s civil war of the 1970s and 80s – and had recently returned to Beirut to live. He was getting ready to move into a new apartment when the crisis erupted – and he asked me in his usual unflappable manner whether I was likely to need an extra pair of hands in the days ahead.

It’s perhaps an understatement to say that Jim and I have something of a history together.

We worked as a team during the Iraq war of 2003, roaming across the northern Kurdish areas while we prepared for a possible dash to Baghdad after Saddam Hussein’s regime had been toppled.

But our work together came to an abrupt end when I stepped on a hidden anti-personnel landmine while we were filming an abandoned Iraqi trench dug into a grassy hill. I lost my leg below the knee in the accident. Our cameraman, the Iranian photojournalist Kaveh Golestan, lost his life.

Back in Britain doctors decided by leg was too badly damaged to be saved. Over the months that followed I came to terms with the loss of my limb – and the reality of life with an artificial limb.

My apprehension of working in a war zone diminished when Jim sauntered into the Beirut office grinning broadly. I phoned my wife Aileen – who’s five months pregnant – and told her that Jim and I were working together again.

“Just don’t go wandering into any minefields with him again,” – she scolded – “and make sure you’re back before the birth.”

Over the last week I’ve watched the hopes of a generation of Lebanese people collapse. It’s supposed to be the height of the tourist season here. Hotel owners were looking forward to their best year yet.

When I was growing up Lebanon’s civil war was a familiar scene on the nightly television news bulletins. People would often describe a place that looked especially decrepit as being “like Beirut.”

In recent years, Lebanon has tried hard to put that image of conflict and kidnappings behind it. Glossy brochures promoting the chic boutiques and attractions of Roman-built Baalbeck or 18th century Beieddine are still scattered on the coffee tables of Beirut’s smart new international hotels.

I doubt they’ll be seeing many visitors now.

The chic boutiques are locked and shuttered – and the hotel lobbies are populated only by a few exhausted Lebanese, smoking and watching with disbelief as the latest attacks on their country are broadcast live on Arabic news channels – the bombardment of Beirut’s southern suburbs just a few kilometres away can be heard across the city.

Lebanon has recovered from conflict before – and there’s still hope of a diplomatic breakthrough.

But even if an early solution to the current crisis IS found, the extensive damage already inflicted to Lebanon’s infrastructure – and its international reputation – will blight it for years to come.

“Will it end soon? Do you think it will?” is the question I’m asked daily when I visit the few shops and cafes in Beirut that are still open for business. I wish I could confidently answer “yes.”

Just over three years ago, when I was first learning to walk using the artificial leg that now attracts quizzical stares from the few people left on Beirut’s streets, I couldn’t even bear to look at it. It seemed to symbolise everything I lost when that landmine exploded in Northern Iraq.

But over time the feeling of revulsion slowly faded, life returned to normal, and attaching a prosthesis made of metal and carbon fibre to end of my leg every morning didn’t seem so strange any more.

A few days ago I wore a pair of shorts so my artificial leg was very visible. I was walking back to the Hotel when a car screeched to a halt beside me, the driver jumped out and I held my breath.

“How did you lose your leg?” he asked.

“A landmine in Iraq”, I replied. He reached down, rolled up one of his trouser legs and showed me his artificial leg. “Meet his older brother!” he cried.

Even during the most desperate times, hope, humanity and even humour always return - eventually.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Thanks for all the e-mails and questions I've received already for the Radio BNI Beirut podcast.

If time permits I hope to record it later today, although it remains to be seem whether I'll be able to upload it successfully, so if you have a question you want answered, get it to me by close of business today

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The herogram to end all herograms from my boss in London after yesterday's herculean efforts by the dock.

When your boss starts gettting Churchillian on your ass, I think it's safe to assume he's happy with your work:

Yesterday was one of those days that makes me proud to work for the BBC. Twenty different correspondents filed 39 different despatches for radio -- from Beirut, Tyre, Haifa, Jerusalem, Gaza, Damascus, Cairo, Cyprus and London. And then there was the live TV coverage from the Beirut dockside that left the competition standing. It's a remarkable achievement which shows the range, depth and expertise of Newsgathering. Winston Churchill once said "wars aren’t won by evacuation". That may be true, but yesterday this story was! Thanks to all of you who are working so hard to tell such an important story.
Aid agencies are trying to gather an accurate picture of the number of people displaced from their homes by the conflict in Lebanon. But assessing the true number of people likely to need humanitarian assistance is so far proving virtually impossible.

Aid groups say hundreds thousands of people could have been displaced by the fighting already. But, in reality, the true figure is still unknown.

The first estimates range from 100,000 to more than half a million.

Aid workers are relying on the news media and contacts on the ground to try to draw up an accurate picture of how many people will need help in the days and weeks ahead. But since it's still impossible to reach many parts of Lebanon -- particularly in the south -- it may be some days before the situation becomes clearer.

But already, reports of large groups of displaced people gathering in schools, mosques and other centres are beginning to filter through. Food and water stocks are low and there are concerns that they could soon succumb to illness unless they're helped soon.

I spoke to a spokesman from the International committee of the Red Cross this afternoon and he said he was increasingly concerned at the infornmation he was receiving.

Aid groups are preparing to mount a major humanitarian operation if it becomes necessary. They’re organising supplies of food, clothing and medical equipment which can be deployed quickly to the most needy people.

The concern is that the number of those vulnerable people could be growing by the day.
The second wave is arriving.

While we got in here on day one, our competitors snoozed – and have been playing catch up ever since.

After a week of 20 hour days, we’re tired and tetchy, with bags underneath our eyes.

The fresh faced newbies, bounding with energy and “ideas” -- many of them bearing only a loose relation to the reality of the situation – are grating on my nerves already.

The knowledge that we’ve creamed the competition for a week makes the fatigue bearable.
I've just had a brilliant wheeze.

If you've got any questions about what working as a journalist in a war zone is really like, why don't you e-mail them to me as at

Then, when I've got enough, I'll answer them in a special podcast from Beirut.

I'm not interested in talking about the politics -- there are plenty of sources of information for analysis of the current situation here in Lebanon. This is strictly behind-the-scenes gossip.

Get e-mailing.
0246 in Beirut and I'm just about to shut up shop for a few hours kip at the hotel across the road.

I've just put a bunch of new snaps onto the photo stream -- and more will follow.

Blasting out on the iPod played through the speakers I've rigged up on my desk -- Jerusalem by Steve Earle.

The lyrics to the song by my favourite musician of all time are so apt to what I'm seeing happening here in front of my eyes that I'm close to tears.

I'm sure my colleagues covering the deadly Hezbollah rocket attacks on innocent Israelis on the other side of the blue line feel the same.

Maybe I just need some sleep.
this is an audio post - click to play
this is an audio post - click to play

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I dialled up to London on the ISDN yesterday to do an interview for one of the million BBC outlets to find Test Match Special coming back down the line.

Looking out across a deserted downtown Beirut, Israeli missiles exploding a few miles away, while listen to Blowers rhapsodising about cake during the first Test with Pakistan was one of the more surreal experiences of my journalistic career.
My reports are starting to sound a little bit like the following:

"In the latest attacks, Israeli missiles targetted the Lebanese towns of Cif and Cilit Bang."

I'm Barry Scott. BANG - and the city's gone.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Until Flickr updates straight onto the blog, you can check into the Beirut photostream here.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

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Spotted an oasis in the middle of a war zone this morning -- a beautiful Havana cigar shop in downtown Beirut.

I'm keen to stock up -- but I don't think it'll be opening for business any time soon.

However, if an Israeli missle lands nearby and blows the windows out it's within easy looting distance!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

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Friday, July 14, 2006

this is an audio post - click to play

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Some US lawmakers want to crack down on its citizens participating in activities which wreck lives and are based on remote and unregulated Caribbean islands, beyond the reach of American law.

Coincidentally, Guantanamo Bay is back in the news today as well.

Monday, July 10, 2006

What's it like learning to walk again with a prosthesis?

If you've been following this blog for some time you'll already know, but if not BBC News Online has a commendably accurate introduction.