Last night, CNN's Anderson Cooper gave the following report after spending several days in Beirut where Hezbollah minders took him only where they wanted:
On camera: We're not allowed to enter Hezbollah territory really without their permission. They control this whole area, even after the sustained Israeli bombing campaign. We've arranged with a Hezbollah representative to get permission to come here. We've been told to pull over to the side of the road and just wait.
Voice-over: We'd come to get a look at the damage and had hoped to talk with a Hezbollah representative. Instead, we found ourselves with other foreign reporters taken on a guided tour by Hezbollah. Young men on motor scooters followed our every movement. They only allowed us to videotape certain streets, certain buildings. Once, when they thought we'd videotaped them, they asked us to erase the tape. These men are called al-Shahab, Hezbollah volunteers who are the organization's eyes and ears.
On camera: You still see their CD's on the wall still. Hezbollah representatives are with us now, but don't want to be photographed. We'll say -- we'll point to something like that and they'll say, well, look, this is a store. The civilians lived in this building. This is a residential complex. And while that may be true, what the Israelis will say is that Hezbollah has their offices, their leadership has offices and bunkers even in residential neighborhoods. And if you're trying to knock out the Hezbollah leadership with air strikes, it's very difficult to do that without killing civilians. As bad as this damage is, it certainly could have been much worse in terms of civilian casualties. Before they started heavily bombing this area, Israeli warplanes did drop leaflets in this area, telling people to get out. The civilian death toll, though, has angered many Lebanese. Even those who do not support Hezbollah are outraged by the pictures they've seen on television of civilian casualties.
Voice-over: Civilian casualties are clearly what Hezbollah wants foreign reporters to focus on. It keeps the attention off them. And questions about why Hezbollah should still be allowed to have weapons when all the other militias in Lebanon have already disarmed. After letting us take pictures of a few damaged buildings, they take us to another location, where there are ambulances waiting.
On camera: This is a heavily orchestrated Hezbollah media event. When we got here, all the ambulances were lined up. We were allowed a few minutes to talk to the ambulance drivers. Then one by one, they've been told to turn on their sirens and zoom off so that all the photographers here can get shots of ambulances rushing off to treat civilians. That's the story -- that's the story that Hezbollah wants people to know about.
Voice-over: These ambulances aren't responding to any new bombings. The sirens are strictly for effect. When a man in a nearby building is prompted to play Hezbollah resistance songs on his stereo, we decide it's time to go. Hezbollah may not be terribly subtle about spinning a story, but it is telling perhaps that they try. Even after all this bombing, Hezbollah is still organized enough to have a public relations strategy, still in control enough to try and get its message out.
Why is this important? Because of the truth, and this map shines a light on it. It shows just what in Beirut has been hit by the Israelis and that 99% of Beirut remains completely untouched. In the map below, the areas damaged in fighting are in grey.
UPDATE 07/28 @ 12:27: Check out this new map which shows the southern suburbs of Beirut in addition to the city limits, pictured above.