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In Beirut, the atmosphere is festive despite threats from Israel

In the excitement of a trendy neighborhood from Beirut, the bursts of laughter from Elie and his friend, seated for dinner, mix with the hubbub of the neighboring bars, far from the violence outside. the border with Israel, which raise fears of a "total war".

“I am forty years old, and every year we are told that war will break out this summer,” this financial advisor with a salt-and-pepper beard told AFP, in front of a bar in the capital Lebanese.

“What we see in the street is different from what we hear in the media,” he confides. “What the foreign press reports suggests that Lebanon is in a state of war.”

Since the start of the war on October 7 between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Lebanese Hezbollah, which supports the Palestinian Islamist movement, has exchanged daily fire on the border between Lebanon and Israel.

The heightened tensions on the Israeli-Lebanese border in recent days have raised fears of an extension of the conflict.

In Beirut, the atmosphere is festive despite threats from Israel

A bar in the Mar Mikhaël district in Beirut, June 22, 2024 © AFP – Joseph EID

The head of Israeli diplomacy Israel Katz threatened Hezbollah with destruction following a “total war” and the Israeli army approved “operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon”.

The next day, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned that “no place” in Israel would be spared from his movement's missiles in the event of an attack on Lebanon.

But if the risk of an escalation sometimes comes up in discussions, it does not seem to worry the Mar Mikhaël revelers.

In this Christian neighborhood known for its cafes and bars which come alive with colorful lights, glasses clink and customers dance to the rhythm of the latest Arab and Western hits remixed at full volume by the DJs.

In Beirut, the atmosphere is festive despite threats from Israel

A bar in the Mar Mikhaël district in Beirut, June 22, 2024 © AFP – Joseph EID

“It's Lebanon and it's our history. Nothing changes. We survived the July war,” says Elie, in reference to a devastating war that pitted Hezbollah against Israel in the summer of 2006.

According to him, “during all past crises, people continued to stay up late, whether during the Covid-19 pandemic or the explosion at the port of Beirut” in the summer of 2020, which accelerated the collapse of 'a Lebanese economy already bloodless since 2019.

– “We rely on God” –

A few kilometers away, Lebanese people took their children to a festival organized in the center of Beirut, until late at night.

In Beirut, the atmosphere is festive despite threats from Israel

Children at a festival in central Beirut, June 22, 2024 © AFP – Joseph EID

“Despite all the threats, we are a people who love life,” Abir Atallah confides to AFP, amid the laughter of the children in front of the stage.

Although, according to the UN, 95,000 Lebanese have been displaced by the border conflict with Israel, the specter of war does not keep the Lebanese from others regions to continue their lives normally.

“We live day by day. Of course, people are afraid, but we rely on God”, admits Mira Makhlouf , which sells children's toys.

“The Lebanese love to party,” she says, stressing that she has no intention of leaving Lebanon in the event of a full-scale war.

While major festivals held every summer in Lebanon have been cancelled this year due to the situation in the south of the country, some organisers have chosen to maintain their programming.

In Beirut, the atmosphere is festive despite threats from Israel

A festival in central Beirut, June 22, 2024 © AFP – Joseph EID

And Arab singers are flocking to Lebanon to perform, as evidenced recently by the concert in Beirut by Egyptian star Amr Diab, which brought together more than 20,000 people in mid-June.

Expatriates continue to flock for the summer season, even though several countries have again advised their nationals not to travel to Lebanon.

“I don't think a war could break out, and we're not afraid. Otherwise, we wouldn't see all these crowds,” says Nayla Haddad, on the sidelines of the festival.

“Every two weeks, we organize a festival in a different place,” she confides, all smiles.

All reproduction and representation rights reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116