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July 2006





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Voting in the Heart of Darkness

Lebanon: "This Country Is Drowning"

Gaza: A View From Across the Border

Gaza Diary

Earthquake signals wrath of a mythical queen



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Voting in the Heart of Darkness

Displaced villagers stand infront of makeshift homes made from plastic sheeting.

Congolese villagers who have fled to camps after rebels occupied their villages are too afraid to go home to vote.

Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. -- Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

We were exposed, on an open road in the brilliant sun. Me, a handful of peacekeepers and a truck containing precious cargo -- ballot papers for the Democratic Republic of Congo's first multiparty election in more than 40 years.

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Lebanon: "This Country Is Drowning"

Child on top of truck piled with possessions.

Families in the heavily bombed southern suburbs of Beirut leave the area.

It's not easy sleeping through the nights in Beirut these days and last night was especially ugly. Between 3 and 6 a.m. the Israelis unleashed a torrent of rockets and missiles down onto Beirut's southern suburbs -- Hezbollah's stronghold -- a few miles from my apartment. I'm no hardened war correspondent but I'm beginning to learn the difference between the impact of an Apache Hellfire missile and a bomb dropped from a fighter jet. Missiles hit with a quick sharp boom. Bombs shake windows and doorframes for several seconds and are accompanied by the unnerving sound of rolling thunder.

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Gaza: A View From Across the Border

Ground scarred by rocket attack.

Israeli police survey the area outside the elementary school where the Qassam rocket hit.

Editor's Note: In response to the Gaza Diary dispatch we posted last week by Palestinian journalist Mariam Shahin, we asked Israeli reporter Hadas Ragolsky, a senior producer for Israel's Channel 10 in Tel Aviv, to offer her perspective on the recent escalation in violence between Israelis and Palestinians and for reaction inside Israel.

* * *

Nana Angel refuses to be mad. Sitting beside her husband's bed day and night she remains calm. "Who should I be mad at?" she asked puzzled in a recent radio interview. Nana's husband, Jonathan, a 60-year-old janitor, was seriously wounded a month ago by a Qassam rocket launched from Gaza. It struck as he was standing outside the first grader's class at the elementary school where he works. "If a child gets hit here, it's the same as if a child gets hit over the border -- a grown-up here is like a grown-up there," said Nana, a well-known kindergarten teacher in Sderot, a southern Israeli border town about a kilometer from the Gaza Strip. A month after his injury, Jonathan, who has undergone four surgeries and awaits more, is still in critical condition.

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Gaza Diary

People jostle in line for bread.

Palestinians jostle in line to buy bread.

Editor's note: With Israeli forces escalating their attacks on Gaza, few reports have explored at length how it feels from inside this isolated and impoverished strip of land. We asked veteran Palestinian journalist and producer Mariam Shahin to send us her personal perspective. In another of our series of Direct Voice Dispatches, Shahin talks about the buildup of the current political and military crisis since the Israeli "disengagement" from Gaza last year and the election of Hamas in January, while also describing what it's like to be living in Gaza as Israel steps up its assault. We've set off Shahin's diary entries in italics.

For an Israeli perspective on the situation, we asked Tel Aviv-based journalist and regular FRONTLINE/World correspondent Hadas Ragolsky to send us her assessment.

* * *

The best thing about Gaza is the sea. Looking out toward the waves allows me to think of happy things...

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Earthquake signals wrath of a mythical queen

Destroyed buildings and piles of rubble.

Many Javanese villages were leveled by the recent earthquake that struck close to the ancient city of Yogyakarta.

When the magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck at 5:54 a.m. on May 27, I was getting ready to go mountain biking up a beautiful hill southeast of Yogyakarta. I started biking there a few weeks earlier, because my other favorite spot -- the lush slopes of Mount Merapi, was getting scorched by gas and ash clouds from the volcano's mild but nevertheless dangerous eruptions.

Mount Merapi lies only 15 miles from my house. So when the earthquake struck, I immediately thought we were feeling the terrifying power of a major eruption. I wasn't the only one. My neighbors instinctively checked the northern horizon for the ash clouds and lightning storms that herald a major eruption.

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