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The BBC's Hilary Andersson visits Beaufort
"The fabled network of tunnels is too dangerous now to try to see"
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Friday, 2 June, 2000, 19:11 GMT 20:11 UK
Crusader relic damaged in Israeli retreat
Beaufort Castle
The imposing silhouette dominates south Lebanon
By Hilary Andersson in south Lebanon

One of the Middle East's most important crusader castles, Beaufort Castle, has been damaged.

The crumbling 12th Century castle, in south Lebanon, was in active service as a fortress until last week.

But when the Israelis who controlled it pulled out of south Lebanon they set off a massive explosion designed to destroy their own fortifications in the castle's grounds.

Beaufort Castle
The resistance movement celebrates Israel's retreat from Beaufort
Walking through the rubble of steel and concrete with the chief archaeologist for south Lebanon, Ali Badawi, it at first seemed that the explosion had not damaged the castle itself.

Possible collapse

But the damage, he said, was to its structure.

"This usually makes a strong wave and this strong wave usually makes a crack in the rock, into the foundation of the castle," says Mr Badawi.

"It is possible the castle could collapse."

Beaufort Castle has been fought over for 800 years by a succession of crusaders, Muslims, Ottomans and others.

Built on the edge of a steep cliff, it commands a striking view of Syria, Lebanon and Israel.

Lying at the crossroads of the Arab world, its strategic importance is as crucial now as it has ever been.


Ancient armies did little to damage this castle, but modern weapons have.

The eastern wall was bombed by F-16s in 1982 when the Israelis invaded.

The entire first floor is filled with rubble, and the fabled network of tunnels is too dangerous now to try to see.

It is a distant dream, but Mr Badawi hopes one day to see it rebuilt.

"The process of rebuilding this castle will take years and it will cost millions of dollars," he says.

"We think the Israelis should pay for that. Maybe as part of the compensation the Lebanese Government should ask the Israelis to pay as a part of the damage they caused in Lebanon."

Beaufort Castle is a remarkable living part of the history of the Middle East.

But if nothing is done to protect it, this critical crusader relic could collapse completely, taking with it centuries of the past.

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