You could see the Israeli missiles coming through the clouds of smoke, hurtling like thunderbolts into the apartment blocks of Ghobeiri, the crack of the explosions so loud that my ears are still singing hours later as I write this report.
Yes, I suppose you could call this a "terrorist" target, for here in these mean, fearful streets is - or rather was - the Hezbollah headquarters. But what of the tens of thousands of people who live here? The few who were not lying in their basements ran shrieking through the streets -- not gunmen, but women with screaming children, families holding suitcases, desperate to leave the heaps of broken buildings, entire apartment blocks smashed to bits.
"You don't have to help the resistance," Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, told the Lebanese on television. "The resistance is on the front line and the Lebanese are behind them." Untrue, of course. It is the Lebanese - and their 140 dead [when this report was filed], almost all civilians - who are also on the front line. In Israel, 24 have been killed, 15 of them civilians. So the exchange rate for death in this filthy war is now approximately one Israeli to six Lebanese.
It was Nasrallah who said that there are "more surprises to come", and the Lebanese fear that the Israelis, too, have some more surprises for them. I watched one of these from my sea-front balcony at dusk, a U.S.-made Apache helicopter turning three times over the Mediterranean before firing a single missile that smacked into Beirut's brand new lighthouse on the Corniche in a cloud of brown muck.
So what was this for? Another "terrorist" target, I suppose. Like the gas stations bombed in the Bekaa Valley. Like the convoy of 20 civilians incinerated in an Israeli air-raid after being ordered - by the Israelis themselves - to leave their home village on the border.
Hezbollah's missiles, after killing 10 Israelis in Haifa, were falling on the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, setting the forests alight, and on the Israeli city of Acre. The Syrians warned of an "unlimited" response if Israel attacked them; the Israelis have been saying, untruthfully, that Syrian troops and Iranians are present in Lebanon, helping Hezbollah in their battle.
Tony Blair believes Syria and Iran are behind the original Hezbollah attack. He is right. But it is to Damascus that the West will have to go to switch this dirty war off. Certainly, the powerless Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, cannot do so. With his government accused by Israel of responsibility for the capture of two Israeli soldiers - a claim as preposterous as it is wrong - he went on television in tears to appeal to the UN to arrange a ceasefire for his "disaster-stricken nation."
"If our prime minister is crying," one Lebanese woman astutely pointed out to me, "what is the civilian population of our country supposed to do?"
But where are the other supposed political titans of Lebanon? What is Saad Hariri, son of assassinated ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri, who rebuilt the Lebanon that Israel is now destroying, doing in Kuwait, chatting to the Kuwaitis?
Why isn't Hariri demanding of President Bush that he protect the democratically elected government and the nation he praised for its "cedar revolution" last year? Or doesn't democracy matter when Israel is smashing Lebanon? Answer: no, it doesn't.
Nasrallah, meanwhile, told the Israelis, "If you do not want to play by rules, we can do the same." Nasrallah's televised argument - that Hezbollah originally wished to confine all casualties to the military - will not wash with Israel but may encourage those many Lebanese who were originally outraged by Hezbollah's attack across the border, only to be silenced by the cruelty of Israel's response.
"This is the last struggle of the "umma," Nasrallah said, the "umma" being the Arab "homeland." Alas, that is what the Arab leaders said when they joined Lawrence of Arabia's battle against the Ottoman Empire in the First World War. It is always the "last struggle."