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BuzzFeed News

New York


Beirut's Explosive New Year

Joshua Hersh

A series of car bombs in Beirut made the New Year period an especially tense one. A few articles from then:

and, for The New Yorker:


At some point, many of the large windows on the lower floors of the Starco tower, in downtown Beirut, were replaced with shatterproof glass—the sort that crumbles instead of breaking into shards upon impact. On Friday morning, when a large bomb exploded on the street behind the Starco building, killing the former Lebanese finance minister Mohamad Chatah and five others, the specialized glass saved lives inside the office of a small aluminum-siding company on the building’s mezzanine level. An hour after the blast, a young saleswoman stood among the wreckage in her office, unhurt but stunned. She nodded when asked if everyone was all right, and then pointed to a colleague’s desk, which had been showered with fragments of glass and metal during the explosion. “Thank God he was out of the office today,” she said.

Most of the seventy people who were wounded in Friday’s attack, which authorities believe was aimed at Chatah—a vocal critic of Hezbollah and a close ally of the former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his Sunni political party, Future Movement—were hurt by flying shards of traditional glass. It was impossible to ascertain, in the hours after the blast, how long ago the shops and offices in Starco had switched to safety glass. Perhaps, in fact, it was the other way around: after several years of calm in Beirut’s newly-constructed upscale shopping district, the newer buildings may have bypassed shatterproof panes altogether. The Starco building, after all, is practically an antique: built in the nineteen-fifties, it is one of the few downtown landmarks to have survived the brutal civil war that ended in 1990—a daily reminder of the violent past that every Lebanese strives to forget, yet worries may be about to come roaring back.

This question, of Lebanon’s trajectory, was the one that seemed to preoccupy Beirut on Friday: Was this bombing a relic of past tensions, or a sign of the country’s ever-darkening present?

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