The schedule has almost become routine. No need to set alarm clocks as the sound of heavy bomardment serves as the daily wake up call.
It is not too much later that members of the international media start to congregate at camera positions on the poolside patio of the Tyre Rest House Hotel to watch, from not too afar, the latest morning bombing and rocket launching taking place outside the seaside city of Tyre in southern Lebanon.
The almost month-long war is strange by most accounts. Watching the exchange of hostilities from our semi-tropical beachside location it sometimes feels like we are on some sort of perverse vacation package -- surf, sand and explosions.
Dotted with palm trees, the hotel has all the outward signs of a popular summer destination. Signs for water-skiing and Mediterannean excursions abound and, oddly enough, the beach bar has managed to stay open for business; open into the wee hours every night playing an assortment of 50 Cent songs and pop Arabic tunes.
Missing from all of this are the tourists. Instead, the hotel is packed with journalists and a few southern Lebanese who have sought refuge here. There are so many people here that we are sleeping two, three, and four to a room ourselves, and we are the lucky ones. Many of the other international news organizations have personnel sleeping on the beach and on cots outside.
The city of Tyre itself has been largely evacuated. Only a handful of employees are running the hotel, charging sky-high prices for basic services. The upkeep has become so poor that there are now wild cats roaming the halls of the building, rummaging through piles of uncollected garbage. Luckily, the power and the water are still working, but worries abound that conditions will become truly disgusting if the power grid and other utilities get knocked out.
Moving outside the city of Tyre has become a difficult and dangerous proposition, as many areas of southern Lebanon are hit very hard on a daily basis by Israeli fire. Yesterday, Tyre became isolated from Beirut when a bridge over the Litani River on the main road between the cities was destroyed in an Israeli bombing run. The fear that created was only heightened this morning when leaflets were dropped in the city by the Israeli military warning people that any cars on the roads of southern Lebanon would be considered targets.
Needless to say, this has curtailed our ability to go out and gather news, which is extremely frustrating for all of us. It has also made the normally simple task of picking up food from the few restaurants and stores still open a more complicated process. Yet, this is nothing compared to what the few remaining aid agencies working in southern Lebanon face on a day-to-day basis in getting aid to people in isolated towns and villages.
Doctors Without Borders was desperate move in some medical supplies from Beirut, so their team in Tyre met their counterparts from Beirut on opposite sides side of the Litani River and hand-carried the supplies in a human chain across a tree spanning the river.
The shelling and bombing has largely been taking place south and east of our our location, but the city of Tyre itself was hit yesterday when Israeli Air Force jets dropped bombs on a neighborhood of small five-story buildings. It was not clear if anybody was killed, as most of Tyre has become a ghostown, but it adds to the extreme feeling of fear and angst for those reamianing in the city.
Sometimes the explosions take place too close for comfort. But for the most part, they have become part of the daily din here in Tyre. We watch them from our camera location and we feel like odd spectators in a war that seems to get more complicated and dangerous by the day.
Will the city find itself under siege? Will Israeli ground forces enter the city? How long will this all last? These are the questions residents and journalists here ask themselves every day.