Lebanon and Israel Paying War’s Toll:

August 21st, 2006 - by admin

Lin Noueihed / Reuters & Kim Murphy / Los Angeles Times & Matthew Kalman / SF Chronicle – 2006-08-21 09:34:11


War Inflicted $3.6 billion Damage on Lebanon
Lin Noueihed / Reuters

BEIRUT (August 18, 2006) – A month of Israeli bombardment has inflicted a “disastrous” $3.6 billion worth of physical damage on Lebanon from which it could take years to recover, the country’s reconstruction chief said on Friday.

Al-Fadl Shalaq, head of the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR), compared the devastation from the 34-day war between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas to the damage from the 1975-1990 civil war that tore the country apart.

“I have witnessed all the wars in Lebanon but I have never seen a war this fierce and I do not see a response to clearing the rubble of war to match it,” he told Reuters in an interview.

“When they say 900,000 people are displaced, that is a quarter of the population. What country can bear having a quarter of its population displaced? Imagine if a quarter of France’s 60 million population, or 15 million, were displaced.”

At least 1,181 people were killed in Lebanon by the war that ended this week. The Israeli death toll was 157.

More than 100 bridges were destroyed or damaged by Israeli air strikes along with roads, factories, ports, airports, the telecoms network, schools, hospitals, petrol stations and military installations.

Entire villages in the south of Lebanon, which saw the worst of the fighting, were reduced to rubble.

“For a country like Lebanon to sustain such large losses in such a short time means the intensity of the fire, destruction, ruin and fighting was high,” Shalaq said.

“The result is that you can compare these losses with the losses Lebanon sustained over 17 years except this time we witnessed it in one month.”

Shalaq said 30,000 homes had been hit, a quarter of them in the crowded southern suburbs of Beirut, a Hizbollah stronghold that was battered by Israeli air strikes.

He said that if rebuilding began immediately, it would take at least a year to repair the infrastructure and three years to replace or repair damaged buildings.

But bickering among fractious politicians is already slowing things down, he added.

“The divisions in the country are delaying the start of a serious reconstruction effort led by the government. What I was fearing is now beginning to happen. I had feared that the Lebanese would return to bickering among themselves,” he said.

It took years and billions of dollars for Lebanon to recover from the 1975-1990 civil war, and now, in many cases, the country must start the process again.

“Sometimes I feel tired and exhausted,” Shalaq said. “Our ambitions and hopes of Arab unity and a free Palestine have not been realised but one continues to work. One has no choice but to work.”

In Israel, where some 300,000 people fled their homes because of Hizbollah’s rocket attacks, the Bank of Israel has put economic damage in lost tourism and industrial activity at 5 billion shekels ($1.5 billion), one percent of forecast GDP.

Lebanon’s Renewal Is Dashed in Weeks
Kim Murphy / Los Angeles Times

BEIRUT (August 13, 2006) — When Lebanon breaks, Fadl Chalak gets called to fix it. Over the years, he’s seen it all: the destroyed roads and bridges, the displaced families, the blown-up buildings. Still, he says, nothing in three decades of war and recovery prepared him for the ferocity of Israel’s month-long bombing campaign.

“I’ve never seen so much destruction in such a very short time,” Chalak, president of the Council for Development and Reconstruction, said last week as the government calculated infrastructure damage at more than $2.5 billion.

Overall losses to housing and small business are likely to exceed the total for the country’s 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990, the government says. A quarter of Lebanon’s population has been forced out of their homes, and as many as 200,000 of the estimated 1 million evacuees may have no home to return to when the war is over, the Economy and Trade Ministry says.

“I have seen all the wars,” said Chalak, who was instrumental in the recently completed reconstruction of downtown Beirut. “I’m supposed to have some experience in these catastrophes. But I’ve never seen a war like this in intensity.”

The government review shows that Israel has largely avoided some types of targets: major power plants, water treatment facilities, telephone systems, central government buildings and most factories. The bombing has focused on Shiite areas of southern Lebanon and the Beirut suburbs.

Although roads and bridges have been hit all over the capital, most of the damage in Beirut has been limited to a single square mile of the southern suburbs: The neighborhoods of Bir Abed and Hrat Hreik.

An almost daily barrage of missiles, bombs and gunship artillery has systematically removed Hezbollah’s headquarters, its schools, clinics, sports centers and homes, along with the homes of thousands of civilians who live nearby.

Lebanese officials say their early estimates of the damage extend only through Aug. 1 and do not fully take into account what is likely to be catastrophic damage to houses, hospitals, schools, water and sewage systems and power lines in southern Lebanon and parts of the Bekaa Valley, an area largely inaccessible to inspectors from Beirut.

Sitting last week in his office at the handsome Ottoman-era building that is the seat of Lebanon’s government, only a 15-minute drive from city blocks that are in ruins, Chalak was trying to summon the energy to start over — finding the bank loans, manpower, construction materials and the will to turn another generation of rubble back into buildings.

“Do you want me to be optimistic, after spending my whole life building and rebuilding grand buildings, and we thought a country came out of it?” Chalak said.

Dressed in an elegant gray suit that looked as if it hadn’t been changed in several days, he sat motionless on a sofa as a parade of engineers with blueprints and reports peered in. His secretary worriedly carried in messages from the half a dozen men camped outside his door. Mostly, he waved them away, staring without expression at the coffee table in front of him.

“We have spent our whole lives doing this reconstruction. On a personal level, I can’t tell you how many houses I have lost,” he said.

“We rebuilt the country so many times, I’m sick of it. I sit on my balcony every night and the bombs start falling, and sometimes I just don’t give a damn.”

A survey compiled by his organization, based on inspections in central and northern Lebanon and telephone calls to engineers and municipal officials in the ravaged south, showed the worst damage to the traffic system, with more than 120 bridges destroyed and $83 million in damage to roadways.

Among the bridges destroyed was the well-known Mdeirij Bridge connecting Mt. Lebanon to the Bekaa Valley on the road to Damascus, the Syrian capital.

“A beautiful bridge, its columns 70 meters, it’s one of a kind in the whole Middle East. Why would they destroy such a bridge?” said Chalak. “They could have bombed the beginning and the end and stopped the traffic. But they made a point to bomb this bridge several times.”

Replacing it will cost $65 million, engineers estimate.

The three airports in Lebanon sustained damage totaling $55 million, but terminal buildings were spared and the biggest repairs will be to runways and fuel storage reservoirs, authorities said.

Power plants also were spared, although a large fuel tank serving the Jiye generating plant south of Beirut was hit, sending 20,000 tons of fuel pouring into the sea and causing about $80 million in damage. Repairing electrical substations and transmission lines will cost about $128 million.

Among about a dozen factories bombed was the country’s largest dairy plant, Liban Lait, which produces yogurt and cheese under license from France’s Groupe Danone, and a large tissue-producing factory owned by a Palestinian Christian who lives in Jordan.

“What connection could these factories have to Hezbollah?” Sami Haddad, Lebanon’s Economy and Trade minister, said in an interview.

Paying War’s Toll:
Northern Israel’s Tourism Fades, but Cease-fire Raises Some Hope

Matthew Kalman / San Francisco Chronicle Foreign Service

ACRE, Israel (August 19, 2006) — Like many residents of northern Israel, Doron Efrati has a few jobs.

By day he is a meteorologist, environmentalist and a lecturer at Western Galilee College. At home in the pastoral surroundings of Bustan Hagalil, a pastoral cooperative farming community on the outskirts of the ancient crusader city of Acre, he has built four holiday cottages on the grounds of his home that are rented out from June until September. But not this year.

“The war killed everything,” said Efrati, who sat out the war with his family as the Hezbollah rockets exploded in the fields around their home.

Efrati’s cottages may yet be filled. As Israel began to count the cost of the monthlong war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israeli Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson announced plans to bring Israeli and foreign tourists to the north in an attempt to provide an immediate cash injection for the beleaguered region.

Tourism slumped by 25 percent in July, compared with the same month in 2005, and the many hotels and guesthouses in the north of the country were occupied only by journalists, aid workers and soldiers.

The damage to tourism, worth $3 billion each year to the Israeli economy, came as officials were expecting a record-breaking 2.5 million passenger arrivals in 2006. Officials said cancellations were already being received for 2007. The Bank of Israel said in a report that the damage to tourism alone could erase half a percentage point off the country’s annual earnings.

Hirchson said Israel’s first priority is to repair the physical damage caused by the rocket barrages on homes, shops and community buildings. He said officials had already received more than 8,000 compensation claims and he expects that figure to rise sharply as the full extent of the damage becomes clear.

“This was a war with heavy economic costs. We will have to deal with it and restore the situation to what it was as quickly as possible in order for the north of the country to continue to grow,” Hirchson said.

“We intend to use the last two remaining weeks of the summer vacation to bring everyone to the north with an aggressive marketing campaign, so they will fill the shops, make purchases, fill the hotels and holiday cottages, eat in the restaurants and create immediate earnings for the residents of the north,” he said.

Israeli officials’ initial estimate of the total cost was $5.3 billion, including defense spending, emergency aid to hard-hit communities, physical damage and the consequences of a $2 billion — or 1.5 percent loss — in the gross domestic product.

But analysts say that the Israeli economy was robust enough at the start of the war to endure the setback. “The ability of the economy to cope with this shock is quite good and will create a situation where it will have only a temporary negative effect and not longer-term negative effect,” said Gil Bufman, chief economist at Bank Leumi.

Israel’s gross domestic product showed healthy annual growth of 6.2 percent at the end of the second quarter of 2006, according to the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics, led by exports, which grew by 25.8 percent over the year.

Two huge technology deals with Bay Area companies went ahead despite the war, signaling confidence in the Israeli economy. On July 25, Palo Alto’s Hewlett-Packard Co. bought Mercury Interactive Corp. for about $4.5 billion, and on July 31, SanDisk Corp. of Milpitas, the world’s largest maker of memory cards in consumer electronics, agreed to buy M-Systems Flash Disk Pioneers Ltd. for $1.7 billion.

In May, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. paid $4 billion to buy 80 percent of Iscar Metalworking Cos., whose headquarters is in the rocket-battered town of Carmiel northern Israel. Buffett is expected to visit Israel to inspect the company next month.

The Association of Israeli Chambers of Commerce estimated the direct losses to service and trade industries in the north at 5.9 billion shekels ($1.4 billion), affecting some 60,000 businesses employing 210,000 workers.

The association said the average loss in revenue was 60 percent for the period. “There is no doubt that there are businesses where the loss in revenue was total because they were closed, like restaurants, shops, cinemas and others,” the association said in a statement.

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