Terror attacks in Paris, Beirut put world on watch

Photo courtesy of Allya Yourish
A wall of the bookstore Shakespeare and Company, where third-year Allya Yourish took shelter with a group of coworkers and strangers the night of the attacks.

On Thursday, Nov. 12 two suicide bombs erupted outside a Shiite mosque and inside a local bakery in Beirut, Lebanon, killing at least 41 people. Late Friday, Nov. 13, attacks in six locations across Paris killed more than 129 people. Since then, the Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for both attacks in unverified statements. As the world reels from the attacks, people in France and Lebanon continue to mourn.

Last week’s bombing was the deadliest in Beirut since the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1990. Three men wearing suicide vests carried out the attack on a busy street in a suburb of Beirut, Bourj al-Barajneh, wounding more than 200 people. The third bomber failed to detonate his vest and was found dead at the scene of the second attack.

As of Sunday, Lebanese security forces had arrested 11 people responsible for orchestrating the attacks. Lebanese security released information that the group had initially planned on targeting a hospital, but opted for the residential area because of strict security at the hospital site. Hezbollah, the militant Shiite organization opposing the Islamic State in Syria, maintains security over the targeted neighborhood.

The United States and Iran, an ally of Hezbollah and the Syrian government, have both condemned the attacks.

In Paris, six separate but coordinated attacks spread across the city.

Third-year Allya Yourish is currently residing in Paris at the bookstore Shakespeare and Company while she completes an off-campus study contract. When the first of the attacks occurred, Yourish was returning to the bookstore and was promptly pulled inside by a coworker.

“We made the decision to offer all of the customers and people passing by on the streets safe haven in the shop, so everyone ended up on the second floor of the building in the dark, too afraid that we’d become a target if we made it clear we were in here,” Yourish said in an email interview. “There were just over 20 people total, three people who work for the shop as regular employees, three tumbleweeds [those temporarily living in the shop], and then a collection of tourists and expats from around the world.

“For the first two hours, everyone was on the phone with their relatives and frantically updating the news. Someone was always making an announcement that The Guardian or CNN or BBC had updated the death toll, or that there was a new site of attack. We had realized the attacks were happening when there had only been one or two, so watching the events unfold as a half a dozen more were reported was truly horrifying. One of the attacks was a 10-minute walk from the shop, we heard gunshots. There were ambulances blaring past all night.”

The six sites of attacks were spread across the city of Paris, in locations including a concert hall, multiple restaurants and the Stade de France, where French and German soccer teams were playing a match when blasts could be clearly heard from the stadium. French President François Hollande was at the match and promptly evacuated.

“It has been about 20 hours since the attacks began,” Yourish said on Saturday. “Paris is absolutely silent today, except for the sirens every few minutes. There are a few people on the streets, but not many. I was here at the time of the Charlie Hebdo attack as well, and the show of solidarity then meant going outside despite possible danger. Now everyone is still coming together as a larger community (through checking in on each other, through the hashtag “PorteOuverte,” etc.), but we’re doing so inside. There will probably be marches and public grieving soon, but we’re all still too much in shock to start that yet.”

The hashtag #PorteOuverte, which means “open door,” was tweeted and posted across the Internet as people offered safe places to stay for tourists or others affected by the crisis.

The response to these attacks has been compared to what happened following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in which members of Al Qaeda entered the headquarters of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and opened fire, killing 11.

“This was senseless violence,” Yourish said. “The meaning of Charlie Hebdo was clear immediately when it happened, no one yet can make heads or tails of the twisted logic that killed over one hundred people last night. Everyone is talking about if it’s actually over, because we didn’t see it coming and don’t really know why it happened, we can’t trust that it’s finished.”

Shortly following the attacks, Hollande declared a state of emergency and increased border security. Hollande called the attacks an “act of war.” At time of publication, France had begun mobilizing fighter jets in attacks on ISIS strongholds. Seven of the suspected attackers are confirmed dead and one is still at large but identified.

In the wake of these attacks, the world erupted in support and sympathy for those affected in France. Lebanese citizens, however, did not feel a wave of global support in their time of crisis. In fact, the attacks in Paris and Beirut are only the latest in a number of attacks directed by or inspired by ISIS in at least 26 countries in the last year. The Paris attacks represent a frightening development in the Islamic State’s reach, if the attacks were indeed carried out by members of ISIS. Contrary to many other attacks linked to ISIS in the west, those in Paris were complex and choreographed. The New York Times reported that this could be a new level of capability for ISIS to orchestrate attacks.

“Right now Paris needs the time and space to grieve,” Yourish said. “If there are political messages to make and lessons to learn about this, they need to wait until we’ve washed the blood off of our streets.

“It is unimaginably exhausting and frightening to be caught in the biggest peacetime attack Europe has seen in years,” Yourish continued. “There aren’t words for it. This city is resilient enough to recover, but the impact of [Friday night] will be felt for years.”

Information for this article was taken from cnn.com, bbc.com, nytimes.com.

 

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